We’re not likely to do much today as it will be so hot but this evening we will meet up with the former ‘county inspector of history’ who had and has a high regard for Petronela as a teacher and has now become a friend. She wanted to meet in an excellent restaurant “to eat fish”; we agreed to the location but will settle for an icecream or sweet of some kind. As I said on my Facebook ‘diary’ yesterday, I did nothing of note so it seemed a good idea to write another post on grumpytyke after about a week here in Iași.

A picture of some small carp in a bowl, prepared for cooking

Small carp

Today many Romanians will eat fish. A high proportion of the Romanian population are practising Orthodox Christians so follow rules of ‘post’ (ie , fast) laid down by the church and today is a day on which they can eat fish but not meat.

Post (fast) in Orthodox Romania

When I first came to Romania I lived for six months with a Romanian family and although something different would have been cooked for me I preferred to go along with whatever they were eating so became used to not eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays and for longer periods at certain times of the year (eg pre Easter, and now). As it seemed a good idea, for health reasons, not to eat meat for a couple of days a week, and for longer periods a couple of times a year or so, I’ve followed this ever since and having a ‘schedule’ makes it easier though I don’t do it for religious reasons. In fact, according to the rules of  ‘post’ it’s not a matter of not eating meat but of not eating animal products, so ‘vegan’. We don’t do this; we often eat eggs, cheese etc on ‘post’ days but sometimes ‘vegan’ meals, eg a kind of ‘baked beans’, ‘borș cu fasole’ – bean borsch, or ‘tocănița cu cartofi’ – potato stew, which are three favourites of mine.

Pește, fish

There’s not a day each week when it’s ‘allowed’ to eat fish but in periods of post there are days where eating fish is allowed and today is such a day. So, as Petronela’s mother follows post pretty strictly today we have fish on the menu. However, because most Romanians (at least in this part of the country) will eat fish today it was difficult to acquire it unless you’re an angler. So Petronela’s father stood in a queue for 1.1/2 hours in the market yesterday to buy the preferred fish – carp.

The carp bought yesterday are extraordinarily small (see picture). I’m more used to them weighing several kg but none larger were available.

(As an aside, I was amused when UK anglers were horrified when east europeans expected to eat the carp they caught. Equally, the east Europeans  were perplexed by UK anglers putting back the carp and other fish they caught; it seemed a pointless activity).

In the UK we usually eat fish on Tuesdays. There’s no link with the church in that, it comes from my ‘honorary grandmother’ in the Bucovina, but that’s another story. Again, having a schedule ensures we eat fish at least once a week.

Mujedei (garlic ‘sauce’)

Obligatory with fried carp is a raw garlic sauce, ‘mujedei’ (pron mooj-day’). This can be simple crushed garlic with water, with sunflower oil, with milk, with a combination of the latter two, or other variations. I prefer it simple with oil, particularly as carp, like tuna, is more like a beef steak with little fat.

To accompany the carp we’ll have ‘mămăliga’ – a kind of cornmeal hash similar to ‘polenta’ but far better if made with the cornmeal from the countryside here; I think this is because a proportion of ‘tăriță’ (chaff) is left in it and probably also because it it is grown on the smallholders’ lots so truly ‘organic’ – a ridiculous term but you know what I mean. (Big Romanian food producers or Western invaders have invented a new one, applied to many packaged, branded foods which, of course, have preservatives, etc: ‘Bio’ is now plastered over packets of such products – more crap!)

Crap

Crap in Romanian is, of course, carp in English, a source of great amusement to Petronela’s students in the UK and to my fishmonger in Leeds Kirkgate market where I buy it, particularly for New Year when it is a traditional Romanian dish. His come from France so not as good as those from Romania, but OK.

WordPress app “beautiful new editor”

I’ve always ignored the WordPress suggestions to use the “improved” editor or the WordPress app. They have always been crap (in the English sense) compared to the traditional desktop version so I use that on both the Macbook and the iPad (as now). Most recently there was a notification that the app had a “beautiful new editor” (or was it “lovely”?) so I had a quick look.

Again complete crap!

In my experience, apps are almost always rubbish compared with the desktop versions, including Facebook, with the exception of Messenger which works very well. The Twitter app is also good. Of course many of the small specialised apps, for which there is no desktop equivalent, are very good. An example is a thermometer app which I’m using to report temperatures on my daily Facebook ‘diary’ – Dusty2Romania.

If the day ever comes when WordPress withdraw the traditional editor interface, as they once threatened to do but relented after a scream of protest from long-term bloggers, I will look for another platform or cease blogging altogether.

Why so many developers insist on fixing things which ‘ain’t broke’ I don’t know; maybe they have scores of programmers sitting around with nothing to do.

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A week of sorting, packing, searching for campsites on our route, about 1,700 miles, from Menston, Yorkshire in the UK to Iași in north Romania, including the ferry crossing.

We’ve done this journey three times before though never following quite the same route: in 2006 in Mini, our 1975 classic mini via the Rhine valley; two years ago in Lofty, our 1972 VW bay camper by the most direct route. The first time was in 2000 when we’d flown to the UK for my mother’s 80th birthday then took a Honda Accord back to Romania (after getting married at three days notice!). This year we’ll make a small diversion from the direct route, camping in Holland, then through northern Germany avoiding Cologne but after that on the direct route, hoping for fewer long hold-ups than two years ago.

Map showing approximate route from Hook of Holland to Iasi in Romania

Approximate route

There will be a few small diversions to camp sites but not counting these the total journey is about 1,680 miles (2,700km).

Facebook group for brief diary

As I did two years ago I’ve made a Facebook group

Dusty2Romania

to, hopefully, post a daily brief diary when we have internet access. You’re very welcome to follow us there if you use Facebook. Facebook being what it is I’ve made the group closed, but if you’re not already a member (I made many friends – in the real sense of the word – members  already) just ask. I aim to supplement the brief Facebook entries with more substantial blog posts, which I much prefer, here when possible.

Menston to Harwich (nearly)

First stage, tomorrow, down to Harwich where we’ll take the ferry to Hook of Holland on Tuesday morning. We’ve booked into a campsite at Bradfield, near Manningtree, about 8 miles from the ferry terminal, recently refurbished I understand, for Monday night. It’s behind a pub; we’re hoping that’s good for a meal so we don’t have to cook. I’ll let you know how it is.

Thanks to the medication prescribed a few months ago I feel able again to drive to Romania; last year we flew and I still ended up in A&E! It was a big problem having to hire cars – €1000 guarantee because of my age so I was driving stressed most of the time. I’m looking forward to taking Dusty the Dacia to his home country 😜, leaving on 25 July.

Photo of medication to take with me to last six weeks

Medication accumulated, Levothyroxine and Xtandi keep me bright eyed and bushy tailed. Xtandi and Zoladex will, hopefully, keep me alive. My lovely nurse here in the UK, Hafsa, tells me the needle of the Zoladex implant is “like a screwdriver”; I’ve never dared look. The due date for one to be put in is midway through our Romania stay but I’m certain the Romanian nurses will be just as competent.

A lot of thinking has to go into what to take as, spacious though the Dacia is, it is no comparison with the VW camper but for sure I couldn’t do the trip in that now. The trip to the English Lakes was about as far as I could manage. Looks like a lot of meds but the biggest problem there will be the temperature in Romania – not for me, I love 30-35degC, but the Xtandi is supposed to be stored no higher than 25degC.

 Click on a picture to read a caption or view larger as a slide show

Feeling much better than for a few years I’m hoping to document the trip far better than last year or the year before, with regular posts here supplemented by a Facebook group for shorter posts. So, two years ago it was almost exclusively on a Facebook group ‘Lofty to Romania‘; this year look out for ‘Dusty to Romania‘ on Facebook but, I hope, more substantial posts by grumpytyke. Romania merits it.

I’m amazed how few members of our writers’ club blog; as many (most?) of them aspire to be published writers (not self-published) I find it inexplicable. It’s even more surprising when you consider that pretty well all of them say they love writing for itself, as I do, and fiddle about on Facebook – which has it’s place but not for someone driven to write, at least not until they’ve ‘made’ it, to promote their published book.

Turned off ‘publicize’ to Facebook – not helpful

The ‘auto-promote’ – ‘publicize’ – to Facebook is not helpful in this respect and for a recent post I turned this off. When notification of a post gets out on Facebook many people just put a ‘like’ on that, based on the summary, without ever reading the actual post. Worse, they frequently ‘like’ the picture chosen by Facebook, which often is not the best pic or even that associated with the lead story if there are more than one. Same applies to comments left on the Facebook summary, which are nowhere near as useful to the blogger as comments left on the blog post itself, if only that those on the blog help to raise awareness of the writer through Google and, of course, the blog followers.

I’ve tried to say it several times with little result; is this failure to understand blogging or laziness? Easier just to push the ‘like’ button or choose an emoji rather than write something thoughtful? They are writers for heaven’s sake!

Twitter is better as it will choose the headline and the lead story picture if there are more than one in the post.

The post for which I turned off the auto promote to Facebook was the latest on the ‘alternative’ village website I do – https://menstonvillagewharfedale.com. Excited that I persuaded a talented, entertaining writer from our writers’ club (and great blogger though unfortunately not on WordPress) – Becky Bond to contribute a post now and then, about one a month, I specifically asked for some comments from club members to support her. I was concerned that what comments were made would be on my Facebook page, for which I choose to have very few followers, not on her post itself.

I dislike Facebook

If you haven’t gathered it from past posts you should have no doubt now that, as a writer, I dislike Facebook except in small closed groups, where it can be useful for communication within the group, as in ours, though one member does not use Facebook so misses out on some comms. Blogging does not seem to attract the asinine comments so often seen on Facebook, comments which the perpetrators seem to think are witty. On the other hand, I do like messenger for brief exchanges with real friends (ie not necessarily Facebook ‘friends’, who may or may not be)

True friends and surprises through blogging

I’ve never found a true friend through Facebook though several friendships have begun with a ‘like’ or comment on a post on this blog. I’ve also had tremendous support from bloggers during difficult times, like when I was quite seriously ill.

Then there are the surprises. I had one just last week from a delightful young lady, an opera singer, a soprano who I’ve been following through her blog since she began studying singing a while ago. She’s now at the Royal College of Music. No surprise there, but the only contact has been through this blog or hers and the latest I heard was that she was singing in Manchester, in opera for babies (BambinO, a project of Scottish Opera). I don’t have a baby so decided this was not the occasion to try to hear this singing blogger, Charlotte Hoather, sing live.

Then she popped up on the village blog, leaving a ‘like’ on a post I did on a gig in the village, with a very different kind of music. It was almost as big a surprise as finding myself dancing at the village event, and equally pleasing.

 

My ‘alternative’ website/blog for the village in which I live, Menston, has got me into trouble far more than this one ever has (for one example of why see some ‘wanted’ posters I created and published) but it has also brought me more plaudits than grumpytyke has. There is an ‘official’ village website run by the Parish Council; it doesn’t have a blog. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago posting on both ‘my’ sites became rather erratic – sometimes because I just did not feel well enough. In a way the village site suffered more than this one because it had lists of village events, village businesses, etc, which became out of date as I could not chase around garnering the information. In fact I had a third blog, specifically about classic cameras and film photography; I stopped posting on that completely but didn’t take it down and it can still be accessed through a link on this site.

Thanks to what I describe as my “wonder pills” (I posted about these cytotoxic miracles here recently) I’ve been able to do far more recently; a short while ago I managed to climb a small mountain in the English Lake District, which I also blogged about, and the weekend before last I was persuaded onto the dance floor at a village gig by two delightful energetic ladies and survived (I thought I was going just to take photographs, which I did – if you’d like to see them and proof that I was dancing you can see pictures here.)

Dusty and me

I’m trying now to rejuvenate this blog and the village one. As far as this one is concerned  I hope to document a forthcoming trip to Romania far better than I did that of two years ago. Just coaxing the then 43 year old VW camper over seven and a half thousand kilometers (4,500 miles) didn’t leave much energy for anything else. This year the trip will be in our recently acquired Dacia Duster – we’ve named him Dusty – which I hope will be less wearing.

menston village wharfedale

As for the village site, I’ve persuaded someone who I’ve described as “one of the three best writers I’ve ever worked with” to join me in writing posts on the blog. She’s Becky Bond, a member of our writers’ club who more often than not has us all in fits of laughter with her contributions. If you’d like to know a little about her I wrote a post introducing her recently on the village blog. She has her own blog, unfortunately not a WordPress one so much more difficult to show appreciation with ‘likes’ or comments. It’s called Becky Bond Writes. Becky was one of those who didn’t succeed in killing me two weeks ago!

The ever enthusiastic, hard-working Romanian founder and leader of our writers’ club Writing on the Wharfe, Ruxandra, always pushing us into new ventures, recently agreed with a local free magazine, Suburban, that each month one of us would provide text for a page. This month I volunteered, mostly choosing the short short stories I favour, or haiku. Some of them you will have seen here before.

Although as a former journalist I’m used to seeing myself in print it’s still a bit of a thrill; I don’t think I’ll ever lose that. I love the blogosphere but that doesn’t give quite the kick that appearing in print does, especially when you know that your work will be dropping in 48,000 local mailboxes.

Here’s the page (some of the haiku were not formatted as written, three lines 5-7-5, but I’ll live with that):

Our writers's club page in the magazine 'Suburban' for June 2017

Suburban, June 2017

 

I’ve been out of circulation in the blogosphere for a while, partly health (lost 6kg+ in five days) then catching up on life so writing as such has taken a bit of a back seat – more on that below. I did manage to get to the meeting I organised with leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker, prior to the general election here. She was as impressive as I hoped she would be.

Making inroads into the second book in her ‘Alpha’ trilogy, fellow writer/blogger Kristina Steiner inspired me to look more closely at my ‘long short story’, which had reached novella length. I decided that perhaps I might achieve my aims by chopping off the current ‘ending/non-ending’ and attempt a trilogy. It’s early days but I’m working on it. A second factor was reading ‘The bestseller code‘ by Jodie Archer and Matthew L Jockers, lent to me by a member of our writers’ club, Kayla. I’ve often said I have no ambition to write a bestseller but this is such a fascinating read and has so much to point anyone towards writing something really good, which I do have the ambition to do.

About half the full complement of our writers’ club at the meeting today. Far left our founder, Ruxandra, then clockwise Marjorie, Helen, my empty seat, David, John, Kayla and Emma. Another two, Kelly and Becky, joined us later.

At the most recent meeting of our writers’ club I said that, for me, responding over two years to a theme set at each meeting with a poem or short story had exhausted its usefulness and in the future I was likely just to present whatever had come into my head. Then, on 23rd May I awoke to the news from Manchester. I had to write something and the theme we had been set for the meeting on 3rd June, ‘broken mirrors’, just happened to fit in with my thoughts. It turned out that another member, Helen, had had a similar reaction. So this is what I read to the club earlier today.

Shards

Shards of shattered mirrors in Manchester
Reflecting eyes of more millions of children
Blasted to hell by bombs rained upon them.
In Iraq by lies transformed to millions of dollars
Swelling the account of our very own war criminal.
In Syria the children pick among their own shards
Before in desperation leaving for another hell
While we eat cake and perhaps text £5 to feel better.
Thousands of eyes appeal from Mediterranian depths.
From Eritrea to Yemen the children cry bewildered,
Shattered by man’s greedy technology
Or simply left unnourished.
While we lust after the latest iPhone.

Should we not pray for our very own mighty Thor
To swing his hammer one last time
To scatter the shards of what we dare to call our civilisation
Beyond recall
And begin to build a kinder, caring, loving being to inhabit this universe?