People Who Need People

I’ve got to admit to being a bit low of late. It’s got multiple causes. First, the hoped for reconciliation with Nina came to absolutely nothing. Next, in my Blackburn apartment I’ve got an utter arsehole, who has not only got dogs in it – so a breach of contract – but he’s stopped paying the rent too. Finally, as previously mentioned, the interminable soggy weather since I restarted.

But things have changed. Friends Nigel and Nem started the cheering process a while back when I stayed a few days at their house. Then more friends, Damian and Jo, paid me a visit in Hungary and even brought a birthday cake. Next, the sun came out and appears to be staying out for the foreseeable. And finally, I met a woman who got me utterly drunk.

Carla, a tall, blonde lass from the Netherlands run the campsite I stayed the other night. But it was more than a campsite. It was also a vineyard and mini-farm. As well as wine, she makes her own palinka, Hungarian firewater.

The site was on a hill and, where I pitched, utterly peaceful, the silence only disturbed by chirping birds and the rustling of leaves. Further down the hill is Carla’s little pub, where music gently plays. I was the only customer, but even I wasn’t paying. Carla wanted me to try her palinka. I agreed on condition she’d have one with me. One became two became three became “let’s just finish this bottle” became Carla saying “let me go and get another one”. We chatted for hours.

Carla runs the site by herself, though she has a fierce but friendly protector in Zepp the Alsatian. Her husband died a few years back and her 24 year-old daughter Esmée, is at university in Budapest. She helps out during the holidays. (I met her daughter via a video chat, but that was long into the evening when the palinka was starting to remove my memory. Sadly, I’ve no idea what we chatted about.)

So basically Carla is alone, tending vines, brewing wine, chopping wood, gathering eggs from her chickens (and occasionally dispatching them when it’s their turn for the pot), feeding guests, cleaning cabins, sorting out everything. A lot of people would have given up and gone home when their partner died. I said it would be nice to write about a powerful woman.

“I’m not a power woman,” she said. “Esmée, now she’s a power woman.” Her daughter was only eight when they all arrived here. Despite no Hungarian, the local primary school took her in. Now she acts as occasional interpreter for her mum when life in Hungary gets too technical.

But all isn’t well in this tranquil idyll. This year the vines have become infected by “a disease from France” and it’s vastly reducing their yield. She’s hoping to find an organic solution. But, more importantly, Carla’s neighbour is going to build several houses on the land next to hers. Her peace, the thing she loves most about the place, is about to be shattered.

If you ever find yourself about twenty kilometres west of the massive Lake Balaton, check out her campsite – Dutch Hill – and see how Carla’s doing. I hope everything works out with the vines and the construction work, and that peace returns to this lovely hillside.

Thanks for helping to cheer me up, Carla.

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