Give a Quarter of a Year to the Mixture and Beat it Until it Cheers Up

No, I haven’t gone insane (yet) due to having to stay at home: the above gem in the title comes from Google Translate. It’s a paragraph from a tarta di Santiago recipe, which I was sharing with family & friends on Facebook, as part of my Lockdown Diaries. (I have to post bilingual on Facebook for everybody to be able to understand and I was too lazy to translate an entire recipe. 🙂 )  

The Lockdown Diaries

What I share with family & close friends is of no interest to the wider world but it made me realise how much we all need some cheering up. Perhaps for some of you having to spend a few weeks indoors curled up with good books is no particular hardship, but for certain reasons which I’d rather not discuss here, not being able to get out and about, and especially not being able to go on holiday this spring and summer is absolutely devastating for me. Yesterday morning I was frankly wondering if there was any point in me getting out of bed.

As I suspect I’m not the only one, I’m starting a new series by the name of Lockdown Diaries in which we will try to go the museums we could have visited, explore historical sites where we could have been spending our holidays; we’re going to get about virtually instead of physically, accompanied by some good books, poetry, perhaps music and photos… 

Days 1 & 2

We went into stay-at-home mode only from Saturday here, and since we’re started this post with a mistranslated recipe, I decided to visit some food related places first. But don’t worry, Waterblogged is not going to turn into a cookery blog!

 Day 1 (Yesterday): The Dwarf Bread Museum in Ankh-Morpork 

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series, and the books about the City Watch in particular, are a long standing favourite of mine, especially in times of hardship. Since Boris is not keen on the idea of us visiting Central London, we’ll take a stroll through the great (and dirty) city of Ankh-Morpork instead. Our first stop, in keeping with the foody theme of this post, is the famous Dwarf Bread Museum where we’re going to take a look at the Scone of Stone.

Well. The replica, at any rate.

Vimes heard Carrot scrabble around in the gloom, and the sound of a key in the lock.

“I thought the Campaign for Equal Heights was running this place now,” he said.

“It’s so hard to find volunteers,” said Carrot, ushering him through the low door and lighting a candle. “I come in every day just to keep an eye on things, but no one else seems very interested.”

“I can’t imagine why,” said Vimes, looking around the Dwarf Bread Museum.

The one positive thing you could say about the bread products around him was that they were probably as edible now as they had been on the day they were baked.

‘Forged’ was a better term. Dwarf bread was made as a meal of last resort and also as a weapon and currency. Dwarfs were not, as far as Vimes knew, religious in any way, but the way they thought about bread came close.

There was a tinkle and a scrabbling noise somewhere in the gloom.

“Rats,” said Carrot. “They never stop trying to eat dwarf bread, poor things. Ah, here we are. The Scone of Stone. A replica, of course.”

VImes stared at the misshapen thing on its dusty display stand. It was vaguely scone-like, but only if someone pointed thi out to you beforehand. Otherwise, the term ‘a lump of rock’ was pretty accurate. It was about the size, and shape of a well sat-on cushion. There were a few fossilized currants visible.

“My wife rests her feet on something like that when she’s had a long day,” he said.

“It’s fifteen hundred years old,” said Carrot, with something like awe in his voice.

“I thought this was the replica.”

“Well, yes… but it’s a replica of a very important thing, sir,” said Carrot.

(Terry Pratchett: The Fifth Elephant)

Well, after that, we need a drink…

Day 2 (Today): The Valley of the Beautiful Woman in Eger, Hungary

We could have of course just stayed with Terry Pratchett and visited one of the pubs in Ankh-Morpork but being Hungarian I prefer wine to beer any day, so we will visit a charming Baroque town in Hungary instead and go pub-crawling… I mean, bar-hopping… er, we will go from wine cellar to wine cellar in the Valley of the Beautiful Woman. (Strangely, we do not have a word for this activity in Hungarian.) 


The book that accompanies us to Eger is a famous historical novel (well, famous in Hungary), The Eclipse of the Crescent Moon by Géza Gárdonyi. Originally titled Stars of Eger, the book tells the story of the first Ottoman siege of Eger, a town in Northeast Hungary, in 1552. In addition to the famous wine cellars of the Valley of the Beautiful Woman, the chief sights of Eger are the old city centre, the castle with its famous casemates, the surviving minaret (which if you don’t suffer from vertigo, you should most definitely climb) and Basilica. In summer, the castle is open till 10 p.m. – stroll along the ramparts after dark, it’s highly atmospheric!

Along the road from Almagyar, a rider was approaching at a swift gallop, carrying with him the cloud of dust, that his horse kicked up. He wore no cap. His red jacket fluttered behind him on a strap.

“That’s my man!” thought Gergely. “It’s Bakocsai.”

For Bakocsai was an excellent horseman, but fate had made him an infantryman, so he was always pleading to be allowed to ride. That was how he came to be on watch that day.

As he arrived beneath the fortress, his face was seen to be covered in blood, and his horse had a lump on its flank, the size of a melon.

“It is my man!” said Gergely, full of joy. “It’s Bakocsai. That’s him, Bakocsai.”

“He’s been in a fight!” muttered Dobó.

“He’s a lad from Eger,” Mekcsey praised him.

“But he’s my man!” retorted Gergely joyfully. “He’s learnt it from me!”

Another three guards kicked up the dust in his wake. Maybe the rest had been killed. 

So the Turks were here!

What were Dobó’s feelings at the news? This was the Turkish army that during the summer had overwhelmed the two strongest fortresses in the country, Temesvár and Szolnok; it had occupied Drégely, Hollókô, Salgó, Buják, Ság, Balassagyarmat… anywhere it wanted. For the Turkish army had set out with theobject of forcing what remained of Hungary to submit to the power of the sultan.

Well, now they were here. They came as a raging tempest, a world-shattering storm of fire and blood. A hundred and fifty thousand tigers with human faces, destructive wild beasts. Or maybe even two hundred thousand. Most of them had been trained from early childhood in archery, shooting, climbing walls and military life. Their swords had been made in Damascus, their armour was of Derbend steel, their lances wrought by master craftsmen in Hindustan, their cannon cast by the finest gunsmiths in Europe; they had immeasurable quantities of gunpowder, cannon-balls, guns and arms. Their lust for blood was devilish.

And to oppose them?

Here was this small fortress with a mere six old, shoddy cannon, and a few iron tubes – falconets masquerading as guns. 

(Géza Gárdonyi: The Eclipse of the Crescent Moon)

Share the Lockdown Diaries with those who are in need of a little diversion!

Further reading:
Tarta di Santiago recipe
Eger (European Best Destinations)
Terry Pratchett and his books

One thought on “Give a Quarter of a Year to the Mixture and Beat it Until it Cheers Up

  1. The Hungarian novel sounds wonderful. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything by a Hungarian author.

    As for Terry Pratchett, I had a great find in a local secondhand bookshop: books 2-6 in the Discworld universe. I think they can definitely be classed as perfect for raising one’s spirits in difficult times.


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