Bucovina


If you celebrate Easter then every good wish for that. If you do not, I just want to wish you a wonderful weekend. Here are some Romanian ‘Easter eggs’, from the Bucovina. They were made for this, 2017, Easter by my friend Violeta Macovei in the village of Paltin.

I have my own little tradition for 8 MarchInternational Women’s Day (but first encountered as simply ‘women’s day’ in Romania). I try to do a post about women, remarkable (aren’t they all?), undervalued or oppressed, on this day.

Remarkable

I have several in this first category close to home in our local writers’ club (see below), all with outstanding talent, and at least one in Romania who I’ll mention though there are far too many to mention individually – just look at the bloggers I follow, some of them as young as in their teens!

I’ll try to mention some remarkable women below. As a start I’ll just mention two most influential for me: my grandmother, an unmarried mother in the early years of the 20th century who managed to regain ‘respect’ and was the most influential adult in my early years; my mother who, as a war widow raised three young boys, I being the eldest, with very little money, despite being seriously ill much of the time.

Of course I have to mention my wife if only because she’s stuck with me for almost 17 years. However, one notable achievement was, arriving in the UK with her English limited to “Hello, I’m Petronela. I don’t speak English”, she obtained the GCSE C grade English, necessary to have her Romanian degree and teaching diploma recognised and gain ‘Qualified Teacher Status’, within a year and has been teaching in UK high schools ever since. Highly valued by her pupils and their parents, getting results from children labelled as under-achievers as well as those in ‘more able’ streams, she’s still undervalued by her current so-called ‘senior management team’. Despite this, while many colleagues have long and frequent absences for ‘stress’, many leaving the profession altogether, she has days absent – for genuine physical maladies – counted on no more than two hands in a decade or more.

I mentioned my grandmother above but I’ll add my ‘honorary grandmother’ (there’s only a year between our ages) who kept some traditions of the Romanian Bucovina alive when oppressed by the ‘Securitate’, secret police, in communist times. She still makes some of the best traditional food I’ve tasted. I’ve blogged about her more than once. Her name – Lucreția Hariuc.

Undervalued

I’ll mention just one group this time – nurses (of course I know there are male nurses), not undervalued I think by most patients but certainly by successive Governments in the UK.

Oppressed

I’ve had a go at two dreadful sources of female oppression in the past: female circumcision and forced marriage, both still rife even in Britain either directly or indirectly, especially in my locality.

I’d add every female in the USA, whether they know it or not, now that Trump is in the White House.

For this year I’ll add another group, just giving you the link here:

https://www.facebook.com/SheDecidesGFI/?pnref=story

Some of my local female heroes

I say ‘female heroes’ because giving them a different title already discriminates in my view. Just to list all the amazing females only in my village would make my post impossibly long so I’m going to mention only the female members  of our local writers’ club, founded and run by, of course, a woman. I cannot do them justice here nor would I wish to choose among them so here they are in alphabetical order (there are a few others in the members’ list but they rarely come to meetings so I don’t know them well enough to comment). Where the members listed have an example of their writing on my village website the name is a link to this.

Becky Bond

Becky, writing with unique humour, even on tragedy, recently threw in her job at the BBC because she was told she could not write anywhere else and went freelance. At the moment she’s my ‘muse’, being instrumental in extending my story-writing from a maximum few hundred words to, currently, over 10,000!

Have a look at her (non WordPress) blog. Often hilarious, always unique.

Ruxandra Busoiu

Certainly a remarkable young (mid 20s) Romanian woman who not only founded and runs our local writers’ club (Writing on the Wharfe) but over the past year has pushed us into involvement in the Ilkley Literature Festival (Fringe) and performing in a local (Ilkley) library. She’s served on a local youth offending team for a while now and is currently seeking to become a magistrate; will the white haired male wrinklies dominating our magistrates’ courts allow it?

Marjorie Hanbidge

Marjorie, before retirement, founded and ran a nursery school in the Wharfe valley. She’s another who usually makes us smile or laugh when she reads her poetry at club meetings. I call her our own Pam Ayres. Despite being very seriously ill just before Christmas and still not fully recovered, she was at the first meeting after Christmas to entertain us.

Kelly McCarthy-Wright

Kelly is a wonderful illustrator. I’ve said that in the unlikely event that I have a book published which requires illustrations, I’ll insist on her being the illustrator. She’s no mean writer either and is another who has the ability to make me laugh with her writing.

Emma Nabarro-Steel

Emma is our singer songwriter. A talented musician on both guitar and piano, she once regarded herself as a jazz singer. Now she says she doesn’t know what she is; all I know is that her songs – music and lyrics – delivered in a wonderfully soothing, soft voice, frequently have my hairs rising and sometimes bring a tear. You can explore, or buy, an album released late last year. She also delivers some super-crafted short stories and poetry, being eg instrumental in my attempt at writing a sonnet.

Catherine Turnbull

Catherine, when she joined the club, was editor of a local newspaper but, victim of the now familiar reorganisations in news media, she crossed the fence and now works in ‘PR’ for a large national organisation. She’s been widely published in the mainstream media and is instrumental in keeping us in touch with writing and learning about writing opportunities, some of which I’ve taken advantage of myself.

martisor2_edgSpring, the meteorological spring that is, came upon us with a beautiful dawn and a sunny morning which lasted until almost exactly noon. Also came symbols of one of the loveliest of Romanian traditions, mărțișor (see re my problems with Romanian grammar below).

Differing accounts

You will find many differing accounts of the tradition on the internet but in the part of the Romanian Bucovina where I say I was ‘brought up’ I learned that it is the males who receive symbols of spring from the females on this day, 1st March. The ladies have to wait until 8th March, long celebrated as ‘women’s day’ in Romania but in more recent years marked as International Women’s Day worldwide, to receive their tokens from the men. It was on 8th March that I first arrived in Romania, appropriate for me I think.

martisor1_edgIn its simplest form the symbol is just white and red silk threads twisted together which can be tied on the wrist, as one of mine received today (thank you Nectara) is shown here. However, now it is more usually tied in a bow and pinned on the breast, often with a small ‘talisman’ attached, as is the one received from my wife Petronela, pictured on the spoon above, which depicts another lovely tradition, dragobete (this year on 24th February) – I think the loveliest summary of this is ‘the day the birds fall in love’.

Basically they are given to bring the recipient prosperity and happiness for the coming year. They are worn (or should be) until the end of the month then tied in a fruit tree breaking into blossom.

I said in my immediately previous post that although speaking and reading Romanian is little problem for me, writing it is quite another matter so after several attempts I settled for the mix you see in the title. Just one of the problems is the Romanian ‘mărțișor’ is not just the name for the symbol but also for the tradition itself. On line translators, it seemed to me, were of little help. Is it:

Au venit mărțișoare/mărțișoarele/mărțișorii/mărțișoarelor, mărțișoare/mărțișoarele/mărțișorii/mărțișoarelor au venit, or none of those?
If you see this Corina, forgive me ?.

To all my Romanian followers of this blog, to all my Romanian friends in Bucovina (Petronela and I hope to join you soon – we’re working on it) and anywhere else in your beautiful country, and to all other Romanians wherever you might be, on your national day:

img_5139

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 😉 !

(more…)

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.

Christmas is getting closer and much as I, being an old traditionalist, like to ignore it until Christmas Eve, I can’t do that as far as sending Christmas cards is concerned. So today I’ve devoted to making some.

This year I thought I’d do something with pictures of Romanian decorated eggs; decorated with Christmas scenes and symbols is not traditional, nor is feeding a ribbon through so it can be hung on the Christmas tree. I think I can take ‘credit’ for this as a suggestion made when I was working in a project to try to increase the income of the ladies who decorate the eggs.

Egg2_1060835 Egg1_1060834

I cannot take any credit for the one below – again it is not ‘traditional’ but the relatively small number of women making these wonderful paintings on hens’ eggs have no artistic training – it’s a natural talent. Some of the nuns in the monasteries paint eggs like this too.

Egg3_1060838

However, I have some people I want to send a Christmas card to who cannot see – tenants in the houses supported by the small charity for which I work and a couple of work colleagues. What about them?

What better than enclosing a CD with some of the wonderful Romanian Christmas carols, very beautiful and very different to the carols I was used to before I went to Romania.

Here are just three from the ‘Christmas card CD’ I have made this morning (hopefully if you click on them they’ll play on your computer – they’re MP3 files not the CD audio files).

22 Colindul clopotelor               21 Linu-i lin             19 O, ce veste minunata

22. The carol of the bells    

21. I can’t translate it – smooth (like the music)    

19. O, what wonderful news

– sung by the superb ‘Mira’ choir of the ‘Lord’s Church of St. Nicholas’ in Iasi, Romania (Lord in the sense of ruler, of Moldova, Stefan cel Mare – Stephen the Great). The only musical instrument in the Romanian church is the human voice, if you discount the bells and the toaca (the wooden board drummed to summon the faithful to prayer), of which this Iasi church has neither. I have been lucky enough to hear this choir many times when I lived in Iasi, not just at Christmas. The church is the one in which I was married.

The third carol is my favourite, perhaps because it is the first I learned by heart and surprised my pupils each year by singing it to them. For you, I can assure you that Mira is much better!

You’ll find Mira on YouTube:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNmJVKjeQpM

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