Laptop or Cow? | Incredible Edible Todmorden | Blogs

Laptop or Cow?

Last update: 19.08.13 First posted: 19.08.13 by in

Staniciova is a normal Romanian village.

It’s in the last, small hills of the Carpathians, about 25 km from the city of Timiosoara in the west of Romania; from here start the flat plains that stretch right across Hungary to the Austrian alps in the west .

Timisoara might ring a bell. It’s where the revolution, against the Ceaucescu regime, started about 20 years ago. It has a fine, green cathedral in the centre and frilly baroque buildings. A very kind lady in the tourist information centre, who can see when you’re hot and tired, and comes out from behind her counter to show you where the markets and synagogues and bookshops and everything else are, on the map.

You wander from drinking fountain to drinking fountain, advised by a helpful but scruffy man, who looks like a rough sleeper, as to the provenance of the various water sources, some are from deep down and long ago-fossil water. So old, it has not acquired the bad taints of the modern world.

Anka and Doru live in Timisoara. We met them last year at our friend Austrian Nina’s house. They were working there to earn money for their wedding. Nina was delighted with them, a random find. Anka is young, friendly and full of life and fun, I find her fixing a wooden fan one of the children had painted. She enjoys every moment, radiates fun and happiness and joy.

Doru is a little less extrovert, a writer and musician, I ask him about Romanian music because all I can find on facebook is Hungarian. He fetches his violin and has me in tears with Gipsy/ Klesma melancholy in seconds. He invites us to visit when we’re passing. A year later, on our reluctant way west, we find them at home.

The house is in a suburb of Timisoara that still has the stamp of a Romanian farming village. Doru’s father, a sculptor and musician, grows tomatoes and grapevines in the garden. The sweetest rottweiler dog wags at us in the cool vine-covered yard, I am happy.

They insist we eat, we talk about food, life, grain prices, our travels, the camper van. We taste tuica from 1988, communist tuica, they still make it, plum schnappes, everyone still makes it, they have minus 30c winters here, calories stored. Anka washes our clothes in the machine, Doru plays piano, it’s relaxed, cultured, normal, nice.

We’ve come from Staniciova that morning, we had been sent there on recommendation of a volunteer at the Buffalo farm (another story, dont ask!). We had invited ourselves via face book, nobody knew us from Adam. An English volly from Keithley, Jay, welcomes us into the little yard, a crumbly cottage with a charming, green, carved, wooden balcony on one side, an open farm workshop on the other and a hay barn converted into an open kitchen/ dining area at the back of the yard. Veg garden, fruit trees, fields, on a hill behind.

Jay had just finished work, laying a brick floor. But his enthusiasm was undiminished by work and heat, and once again we felt at home. He talked about travelling around Europe and beyond, in his summer from school teaching, how there was NOWHERE like Romania for hospitality, for lovely, warm, open, hard-working, honest, friendly people.

Nothing unusual, nobody out of the ordinary, this is what everybody here is like, untainted by modern defensiveness,

These are the dreaded ones who will invade next year and swamp our social services wih their greedy lazy ways?

I think not!

Andreea, our friend and host in another small town explained. Any Romanian who wanted to work in the UK left and did it 5 years ago, never mind the rules, there is a black economy and Romanians, true, are not entirely convinced about following foolish rules.

So fear not, oh paranoid ones! there is an invasion; it already happened.

Would you recognise a Romanian as such if you saw one?

Or the language if you heard it?

Heres a clue, it’s a bit like Italian crossed with a slavic tongue,

A bit like Slovenian,

so that’s easy eh!

Staniciova, as I said, is a normal village.

In western Europe it would be a commuter suburb of the city, it’s only 20 miles, but here, fuel for cars is a hugely expensive luxury, and a horse is normal, it eats hay, that costs nothing, only work.

It has two main streets, wide streets with crushed stone road, lined on each side by equally wide greens and a stream, then plum trees, for tuica.

A wide strip of common land to one side of the houses, grazing for the town herd

Teodora arrives, “you must be the man from face book” i admit it,

Teodora Maria is our host, she came here from the city, to live, not to commute, or to holiday, but to be part of, a community that farms.

She is maybe late 30’s, bright as a professor, knows all the projects in Romania,

She doesn’t like to call her life a project, it’s a life.

She used to earn her living in an office, administering multi-million euro EU-funded projects,

Knows about philosophers, the modern world, the media and has learned about weeding and growing and doing.

We share views on permaculture, how it.s less than the pinnicle of wisdom here in a culture that has had permanent agriculture for millenia.

We explain that that is why we visit Romania, so much to learn.

That establishing new communities makes no sense here, joining , reinfoircing, learning from existing ones, does.

As the day cools we park the camper on the grass outside the farmhouses, and watch.

The family next door have two boys, about starting high school age, we watch them working on their house by torchlight, late into the evening, applying render to the wall. No grown-up supervising.

Next day, of course, we are welome in thier farm yard, 3 piglets, a barn full of new hay, 2 horses and a sick cow that needs help standing up.

Teodora explained that they had no cow when she moved to the village, something had happened and they lost their cow, they kept saving up, but boys are expensive and cows are expensive and somehow they could never afford a cow.

Teodora was in the Mac shop with the 1000e that to us would be worth about 5000e in the uk, ready to invest in a computer, when she had a sudden change of heart,

what if…………..

She explained it to us like this:

In the west we have a long way to fall, we are reliant on lots of systems, a food system, a transport system, a health system, we really dont have much control over our lives, not really.

In a simpler culture there’s less far to fall, more self reliance, more dependance on neighbors than state, or commerce,

so in the west we buy protection, insure against everything, or social services.

in a simpler culture what insurance can there be save for the full bellies and good will of your neighbours?

So instead of a computer Teodora bought her neighbours a cow.

And it was the cow’s daughter that was sick,

And we needed to help it to stand up, that’s what you do in Romania

Help next door’s cow stand up, when needed.

And they give you milk, of course

and there’s something about milk of human kindness isnt there?

But this isnt that kind, just cow milk,

The most wonderful, wonderful milk you ever tasted.

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