Archive for November, 2009

Bulgarian Job-seeker

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2009 by David Palmer

Not a lot of news about the rest of the family as for the last 3 weeks I have been away helping David (step-brother) rip apart his house in Bulgaria. His internet and phone connections were slow and very variable and were not available for the first week we were there. When I did ring home on one occasion, I gave up after several disconnections just seconds into a conversation. Communications were by email, which took many attempts to send. Frustratingly, David had brought his new Sony Notebook to use for communications, on the surface a good idea, but as a touch typist the small keyboard was an absolute nightmare and I had to resort to one finger and a pair of glasses. In the end, I dug out an old  Sony Vaio he had getting dusty in one of the bedrooms, and connected it to the internet. Things were much better then as I also had a source of music to listen to. This is what I gathered was happening to the family:

Nan had Aunty Josie stay for the week and also had Genya pop around a couple of times (as she was missing David). I believe she had her hair done 3 times, went out a a lot for lunch and had to walk everywhere when Josie was there, as she refused to be towed behind Nan’s Batmobile in a trailer (could have been fun). She watched a lot of sport on the TV, much to the disgust of her sister.

Sue continued to improve and I suspect Sarah and Jamie gave her plenty of practise at the old skills that she had honed to a fine art before her operation. She certainly looked fit and well when I returned. In our daily email exchanges (when Jamie let her onto HER laptop), things seemed to going on as normal (one got the impression that one’s absence hardly affected the smooth running of the household) except the country couldn’t cope with a little bit of inclement weather without me and nearly drowned itself!

Sarah continued with her schooling and shoved a piece of paper with her interim grades on it at me (as soon as  I entered the house) and looked chuffed with them, and so did I! She is also continuing to see Lee, he is coming down today from Nottingham.

Jamie is now fully unemployed and concentrating on choosing a new car. He is still seeing Harley who is spending the week-end at Centre-Parcs.

Charlotte has been ill again, nasty tummy thing that she has been struggling with for a while now. She has had a blood test (they found some) and have decided to retest her again at a future date. The NHS needs the blood. I discovered that besides doing charity work and helping out with disabled children she now walks dogs for elderly people who have to have a short stay in hospital. What a nice daughter I have. Things are looking good for the future when I start to dribble and my bag bursts.

Suraj and Lucas seem fine (though Lucas might have caught a bit of what Charlotte has, as he did have a tummy upset one night). Suraj cut his hand badly before I left, but as there has been no mention of it since I have returned, I assume it has healed or he is getting along fine without it.

Bulgarian Demolition Job and a spooky encounter!

Having arranged with David to travel to Bulgaria to alter parts of his home, things did not go quite as I expected. I duly booked myself on the same train to Luton as he was travelling on from Sheffield, to find out that he had decided to travel First Class! That put me in my place as to who was the property owner and who was the immigrant labour. However, we did sit next to each other on the flight and he did drive me to Ritya (where he lives), and I took that as, he was the hired chauffeur and I was the rich western European. One each, game still on!

Apart from the first two nights when it rained, the days were either warm or hot with blue skies and the evenings were chilly with a beautiful starlit sky. This might give the impression that we saw much of either, but in fact we did not, as most of the time was spent indoors with occasional forays outside to cut wood, fetch plaster board or feed a feral cat that had taken a liking to us. His name was Cat, and he was male, and he bathed as often as we did in 3 weeks. He did have some friends who dined on David one evening and brought up a nasty swelling on his back. We did have a plasterer who came most days to plaster up everything that we had ripped apart His name was Mincho and he loved rock music (like all Bulgarians). He was a really nice guy and despite having only a smattering of English we had many a chat about the various rock groups we had seen in Bulgaria, though I didn’t confess that I had first seen them when they were young and less saggy. We did get an invitation to see most of the line-up of King Crimson in VT but were were too busy working to go. I discovered a radio station that played 24hr non stop classic rock and we had it on all day every day (to keep Mincho working). After 3 weeks, I couldn’t believe it that after 56 years of listening to the stuff I would tire of it, but I did! Mincho’s girlfriend was the daughter of the electrician who came occasionally, he was quite ill and looked mostly dead. His working practices left something to be desired. After we had ripped out the wiring in the upstairs lounge so that they could be re-routed, he connected some cables together and then left. Later on I discovered that the cables and wall sockets were live, I assume he expected us to put them back like that. I rewired the sockets and David and I rerouted the cables in the walls and then plastered them in place (we did this in the dark, it was safer than having the light on!) The electrician returned 4 days later, said nothing about what we had done, but started to drain the central heating system (which didn’t work properly and he had fitted). We left him to it. It did work better after refilling, but he had replaced the expansion tank with a larger one. The old (new) tank had been in the bathroom, the new one (bigger) was now in the loft, which was unlagged and the temperatures regularly go down to –40 (not sure whether that is c of f) in the winter. His name was Vlado and he was a very nice man as he said goodbye to me when he left.

I originally thought we were just going to ‘do’ the upstairs lounge, but, I soon got to realise that when David stood for a awhile looking at something he was contemplating destroying it! And each time we did. Hence we started every day between 7am and 8 am (he did bring me coffee in bed, to wake me up) and finished around 9pm, though one day we did start at 5am and finished at 2am the following day with only a stop for lunch (the only time we had cheese on toast), it’s strange but we were not hungry. We ate twice a day, at lunchtime I made omelette 8 days running followed by 4 days of chips and 2 fried eggs and then one day of cheese on toast and the rest of the stay back to omelettes. The omelettes I made were not small affairs, as each day they contained 10 eggs. For variety, sometimes they contained cheese and sometimes mushrooms and sometimes both. I now know that David loves eggs, we consumed in total 186 eggs (that is not an exaggeration) and 5 loaves of bread. Due to a predictable biological reaction on David’s part it probably would have been worth it converting the house from the log based source of heating to that of a gas based source. It would have only take a few short lengths of piping and meant less fetching and carrying. If I never see another egg it will be too soon! In the evening we drove to Dryanovo to eat. The food was good, though everything contained cheese and often eggs. Despite which place we went to, you were more likely to get your dessert before the main course and it was pot luck whether you actually got the dish you thought you had ordered. But, it all usually tasted nice and at 10pm at night were were not going to question what the chef had decided we were going to have.

David did give me treat one night when we finished early and we went over the mountains to Gabrovo and had a meal with a couple that he knew. He said it would be a scenic drive, very stunning. In fact, he had borrowed a car from his friend 5 months ago and he wanted it back. He drove his Dodge and I drove the car (the brakes were iffy and the headlights dim) and I followed his tail lights. The roads were atrocious, it was night and pitch black, apparently we drove through a quarry at the top a mountain, nearly ran over a horse, a dog and a lone jogger. Really? Must have had my eyes shut. David paid for the meal as a thank you to his friend and it was quite nice to have some different company and a change in conversation from ‘What shall we destroy next?’ On the return journey we went around the mountains on the good road, as I had already seen the dramatic scenery on the way there.

List of things destroyed:

Upstairs lounge ceiling, floor, fireplace and walls. 2 bedroom ceilings and walls, 2 downstairs ceilings, kitchen ceiling and bread oven. All of the trees that surrounded the perimeter walls. We also rewired the lounge, kitchen and one of the rooms downstairs. Plus installed security lighting outside and a cctv system based in the loft. Nearly fixed the smoking wood-burner downstairs. We also built a  hidden room to store all of David’s expensive tools and electrical equipment.

We caught a a weasel and re-housed it in one of the neighbour’s barns. We also discovered a quite a lot of wood worm and treated some of it. Remarkably we only disagreed twice on plans of action, and it didn’t take him long to work out that I was right.

We left Mincho a lot of plastering to do as we had put up over 40 plaster boards and pulled down quite a lot of walls. Wall removal wasn’t hard as it was made of a combination of animal muck, straw and mud.

Spooky Tale:

During the first few days we ripped down the wooden covering on the upstairs lounge ceiling, we were exposing the wooden beams and were then going to plaster-board between them. When the ceiling came down, besides lots of dirt and dust we also brought down between 2-3000 walnuts that weasels and rats had stored their over the last 100 or so years. After brushing all the debris from the now exposed ceiling, David went downstairs to make coffee and I started to sweep up all the dirt and nuts in a pile in to the middle of the room. Then someone threw a walnut at the side of my head, it really did hurt. It didn’t fall from the ceiling, but I caught sight of its trajectory as it came at me from the side and I automatically flinched. I looked around and I was on my own. Bravely (I think) I said loudly, ‘You will have to do better than that.’ I carried on sweeping and when David came up with the coffee I told him about what had happened. He then told me a story (later).

A couple of days later I was channelling out the routes for the new electrical cabling, in fact it was making a lot of dust (see photo) and destroying a fair bit of the wall. David was finishing screwing the plaster-board to the ceiling. When I had finished the channelling, David had gone downstairs to fetch some more screws and have a sneaky smoke outside (lazy git). I had started to sweep the mortar etc. into the middle of the room, when someone threw a lump of mortar and it hit me at the back of the head. It hurt, I looked around and I was again alone. I said nothing and got on with sweeping and I didn’t tell David until about a week later.

Both incidents happened late at night, and nothing else ever happened. I was sleeping in a bedroom off the lounge and slept like a log every night. Occasionally I walked through the lounge it to get to the toilet in the small hours and never saw or heard a thing. Spooky eh?

David’s tale:
In one of the rooms downstairs David installed an old wood-burner (called a Petchka) that one of his English friends had given him. It had come from an old derelict house and his friend didn’t want it. As soon as he had placed it in the fireplace, strange things started to happen. As he left the room he switched off the lights, when he returned a while later, the lights were on. He switched them off, left the room and they came on. The lights could be switched off while he or Genya were in the room, but came on when they left. The wood-burner is now in the barn outside. As soon as it was removed, the lighting problem stopped. Spooky eh?

Our return journey was quite eventful. We had a taxi from Ritya at 2am and travelled to Vittoria Tarnovo, then caught a bus for a 3 hour journey to Sofia at 3.30am. We arrived at 6.30 am and then got a taxi to the airport. We had a yellow meter Taxi and David confirmed that the fare would be 10 Levs. The driver said yes. When we got there he demanded 76 Levs! Our cases were in the locked boot. David refused to pay. The Taxi driver (looked Gypsyish), got irate. I fetched a policeman from inside the terminal. He checked all the guys documents and his car, but they were all in order. The policeman agreed it was a scam but we had no choice but to pay. David said he was not and that he did not have any more money. The taxi driver said he would accept foreign money. I fetched a very nice lady from information who could speak really good English and she helped. She agreed that it was a terrible scam but it happens all the time. I told her I had a heart condition and that I was 2 hours late taking my tablets which were in my case and I needed them now, I was not feeling well. She spoke to the policeman, he told the driver to open his boot. We got our cases. David offered 20 Levs to the driver. The driver refused. David said sue me then, put the money on the bonnet and we went into the airport. Quite eventful.

THE END

A month is a long time!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 2, 2009 by David Palmer

Yet again I had to be cajoled into sitting down and writing my blog. I don’t have any excuses except sometimes I have been too busy and at other times I have felt like being lazy. It was easy at first when I retired because life seemed to be quite predictable with things happening at regular times (I hated that). Now life seems to have settled down into a series of random events that just happen, and I decide whether I want to bother about them.

For example: Yesterday, I was scheduled to travel to Stocken Prison near Grantham. I was pleased when I received a text that both sides wanted an early 2.30pm KO. I arrived at the gate for 1.15pm as requested (entry takes quite a while). Having first checked in, then waited in the entrance for the visiting side  to arrive (Prison teams don’t play away games), I sat twiddling my thumbs until 2.15pm. I had to share the space with approximately 5 women and 40 children that had turned up to visit their husband/partner/acquaintance/Dad. After I had finished exploring the thought of how the ‘about to be visited inmates’  ever had time to break the law whilst they so obviously seemed to spend a great deal of time procreating, I decided to tell the Reception Desk that if the opposition didn’t turn up in 15 minutes I would be leaving (such is the right of every good law abiding citizen, such as myself). A further observance was that the women in question were not the sort, or used the vernacular of a lady that you would have preferred your son to date, and the children were certainly short of a few ‘Stars’ on the class ‘Star Chart’. I duly returned to my car to listen to the footy on the radio. A few minutes later, four rugby players tapped on the window and asked politely if I was the Ref. Being dressed in  the Society’s shirt, tie, fleece and my badged kit-bag was on the back seat, I clearly was. Having not spotted these clues, I assumed (correctly) that they were forwards, but non the less a pleasure to chat to as they could at least string parts of their sentences together coherently. Something the ladies in the entrance couldn’t without punctuating each remark with some obscenity, or whacking their children, who in-turn seemed intent on doing harm to each other or standing on MY kitbag. I informed them, that as they were such amenable chaps I would wait for the rest of the team, but we would only be playing 30 minutes each way. At 2.55pm they rest turned up in  a beat-up old army bus that was probably about to be shipped out to Afghanistan to ferry our brave lads about their duties in Khabul. I had refereed this team last season, and despite having sent one of them off and two more to the sin-bin, they remembered me with kind thoughts, as they had won the game. It’s results that count (Raphael Benitez should take note of this advice). By the time we had passed through security, hurriedly changed and then passed through further security (I am afraid that further elaboration such as mention of security codes etc. is prevented under the ‘Official Secrets Act’),  to get to the pitch, it was 3.35pm. I quickly pointed out to the away team, that if I red-carded one of them in this game it would cost them £50, the wrath of their club and further sanctions from the LRU, including a journey to Leicester to face a Disciplinary Panel. If I red-carded their opposition, non of this would occur except their ‘Street Cred’, would increase exponentially throughout the jail. So my advice to them was to be ‘ good citizens and an example that their mum’s would be proud of.’ It was a brilliant game, keenly contested until the last seconds of the match, when despite being under immense pressure from the away side, one of the warders (who was playing with the inmates) gathered a chip ahead which would have resulted in a winning score, kicked the ball into touch to win the game 19:17. I am glad I bothered.

The Newarks: We did see them a few weeks ago. They all came down one weekend for a visit, everybody seemed well at the time, but since then, Charlotte has had a bout of ill health, but she appears to be over with it now. Lucas was very excited about Halloween and collected a big bag of sweeties (see photo). By all accounts, Charlotte was even more excited. Suraj is busy with his computer installation side-line and has provided some systems for friends of mine. I have heard that he has badly cut his hand on a computer mother-board which required stitches.That’s the trouble with killer-bytes! Charlotte and Lucas also came over for a few days while Nan was still here and gave me a break from cooking and cleaning. She was an absolute whizz (gets it from Sue, no doubt) and cleaned the house from top to bottom and according to Nan, she cooked the chicken we had for Sunday lunch like an absolute dream (what about the Michellin  3 star meals that have been coming out of that kitchen for the last 6 weeks, I say!!!!) Suraj has a new car (BMW). Charlotte and Lucas have been over to Nan’s to visit and also, last Monday they went to Belton House near Grantham. I had been staying in the Hotel opposite that week-end, with some friends on a golfing and walking weekend package (but we didn’t play golf, too old to do both, now).

Nan: She has a new front and back door (to stop the draughts) and also a new shed for her bat-mobile. She still manages to be eating breakfast, lunch, tea or supper every time I ring her and swears it is only coincidence. I did drive up there for a few days, and managed to dig up the last of the potatoes. She is concerned about Aunty Edna who has been admitted to hospital, she has a problem with her legs.

The Bulgars: David and Genya have returned from Bulgaria for the winter, though David and I have arranged to go back on Nov 9th to rip out the ceilings and  do a spot more renovation work. Genya is not looking forward to letting David go, as they haven’t been away from each other for 12 years now. I  suppose I shall have to look after him. It sounds as if they are really settled in Bulgaria now and returning back to Blighty is an essential but annoying fund raising activity that they would prefer not to do. I do think that one of Genya’s daughters is getting married soon, so that should take her mind off things for a while.

Sarah: Is busy with school, she still pops straight into my study each day to write up her lesson notes and complete any homework. It seems to be paying dividends as last week she got 8/10 in a biology practical at Leicester University and her last Sociology essay received an ‘A’. She is still active with the Air Cadets, though the other week I drove her up to Camp near Bradgate Park and then had to bring her back on Saturday morning as she had woken up with a sickness bug, it took her a couple of days to get over it. It was quite a frustrating weekend of driving for me as on Saturday afternoon I was refereeing in Ashby and had to do the journey up there again. She has a new friend who lives in Nottingham. She has been on the train to see him a couple of times, they had a Chinese meal in Nottingham last weekend in celebration of a friend’s birthday. We have met him and he seems fine. Yesterday she swam at RAF Cranwell for the Squadron and got two silver medals, I wonder what she might have got if she hadn’t got such a busy life and still swam for the Club?

Sue: Sue is much, much better. She passed her assessment at the hospital last week with flying colours and though there are still quite a lot of tasks she can’t do yet I think she will be back to her old self for Christmas (I am a bit relieved at that). She is cooking and doing a bit of cleaning and washing, and though she is increasing the amount of distance she is walking, she can’t drive as yet. Not surprisingly, as she has not been into school, she hasn’t picked up any bugs. I howeve0,r went into Farndon Fields (for 3 consecutive days ) and spent 3 days in bed with a stomach and Flu bug. I haven’t been back since. We did go to see the Hallaton Horde (coins) at the Harborough Museum, it was very good. They have obviously spent a lot on money on presenting the exhibits, but it was worth it as it was very entertaining and explained quite clearly. On Saturday we went to see the film ‘Looking for Eric’, it was quite amusing, I gave it 6/10. A much better film we saw a few weeks ago was ‘Hangover’, we both gave that a 10/10, it was so funny Sue had a problem not tearing her stitches! We have ordered it for a family showing over Christmas. Sue has discovered a new pastime; she now takes Jamie with her shopping, he seems to enjoy it and it relieves me from a chore I do not like. It got worrying when I knew the cost of baked beans in 3 different supermarkets and I started to check the ‘sell by’ dates of every item that went into the trolley. On at least a couple of occasions I even passed the shelves lined with bottles of beer as I was preoccupied with which pack of toilet rolls were best!!!!!!!

Jamie: Still seeing Harley a lot. His car seems to be running fine though his engine management system did give trouble a few days ago, the engine was over revving. He is working at some ware-houses, but hasn’t yet used a fork-lift truck (which is why they employed him). He doesn’t work every day, only when they have the work does he get a phone-call. If the work finishes before the end of the day, they send him home, of course they only pay for the actual hours worked, but so far they have managed to get that wrong on most occasions, you can guess in who’s favour that is. I believe that the company have also lost a contract, so Jamie doesn’t know what will be happening this week. Rather stupidly he did turn down a job in Corby as his friend Tansley, who relies on Jamie to take him to work in Lutterworth, would then have not been able to get to work (he doesn’t drive). When will he learn? We took Jamie and Harley to Rockingham Castle for a a Ghost Story Evening last Wednesday. It was very entertaining, but not a bit frightening, we all enjoyed the occasion, especially walking around the castle in the dark (that was the scary bit). Jamie has been suffering from mouth ulcers and it got to the state last week where the doctor sent him for a blood test to find out why. I didn’t realise but he was vey nervous about the test, and I believe he nearly passed out in the waiting room. The results haven’t arrived back yet, but I hope he doesn’t have to go for any further tests.

Dave: I have been refereeing at the week-ends, and despite a degenerating body I still enjoy it immensely, I feel fine on the pitch, I only seem to suffer before and after (must be psychological). One week-end I went with 3 friends for a golfing and walking trip to a hotel near Grantham. Unfortunately, we didn’t play any golf as after walking in the mornings, we are so crocked that we couldn’t face walking around a golf course in the afternoon (sad isn’t it?) We watched rugby on the TV instead. I have been chopping logs, making paper logs and sweeping leaves. The pool that had turned green is now back to blue. I make soup on most days, Sue particularly likes my pea soup, she didn’t equate the disappearance of the green pool water with the emergence of bowls of pea soup! One high point this week was when I spotted a cruise around Japan on the internet. It involves flying to Shanghai, staying over night, catching a cruise ship around Japan calling in at several ports, visiting South Korea, before back to Shanghai, one more night and then home (flying Virgin, direct flights), full board. Sue said yes, so we go in April. We leave Sarah and Jamie behind in the gentle care of Charlotte. How times change.