Archive for Oct, 2011

Reflections on Bulgaria

Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 26, 2011 by David Palmer

France beat Wales and the following weekend went on to lose (in a tight game) to New Zealand. The week in between was full of incident.  First we had 2 days of torrential rain where the Turks failed to turn up for work. Not surprising as they would have thought that they would have been working outside, in fact they had jobs to do inside (in the warm and dry), though it was sanding down beams (pretty boring). On the first day, David and I did all the unfinished, inside jobs. The local policeman who was making steel doors for the barns was also expected, but he also failed to turn up, as did the electrician, though he eventually made an appearance at 9pm. Looked around and said, “No problem.” then left, promising to return on Thursday.

The following day we spent the morning planning and decided to go into Veliko Tarnovo (the old capital) to get a petchka (woodburner) for the new downstairs apartment. We left at 1pm in the pouring rain. We visited e large builders merchant that David had never been to before, as well as Praktika and a specialist Petchka shop. We looked at dozens of woodburners. And then we looked at them again.We discussed at great length what the petchka was needed for and what features it must have and eventually David chose one that was on offer in Praktika. When the store assistant went to get a sack barrow to move the petchak he took just enough time for David to change his mind (several times) and we eventually left the store with the same model that he already had in the upstairs lounge. It took a mere 5 hours. As it was dark and still bucketing it down we couldn’t complete the other task we had set and that was to get a set of snow tyres (quite significant error as things turned out). We drove back in driving rain which turned to sleet as we neared Ritya.

I woke around 2 am to visit the small room and looked out of the window to see a covering of snow outside. When I woke at 7am, it was  3ft deep, there was no power, a lot of the trees had fallen over with the weight of snow on the leaves. No power meant no water as it could not be pumped from the well. Wading down the lane we discovered that the village was cut off by dozens of trees down. Though it was very picturesque and Christmassy. We dug out paths around the house, collected snow to melt for water and got a camping stove out and boiled some to make a hot drink. Later on, David got out his quad and took the chainsaw to start on the fallen trees. The power came back on, later that afternoon.

The following day was quite hot a a slow melt began. David thrashed up and down the lane to flatten the snow and drag some trees out of the way. He discovered that a snow plough had been and cleared a lot of it away, but couldn’t get over the little bridge outside the village. That afternoon we busied ourselves with indoor jobs.

The hot sunny weather continued for the rest of the week and the snow slowly melted, and the Turks turned up. We all set about digging a ditch from the house gutter downpipes into the field. It was very wet and muddy work as the ground was osdden and the melting snow insisted on using our ditch, at times we were digging underwater. Eventually after a couple of days the ditch was ready to take the pipes, and with only a few minor hitches, they went in  ok and worked first time (much to our relief). It helped to alleviate the water problem and the garden began to quickly dry out. The following day saw the pipes covered in sand and the new garden path edged with concrete.

The following days saw a new wall built and a steel door fitted in one of the barns. However, the policeman had fitted the door with the locks on the outside. David was in Dryanovo when they were fitted and I was busy in the field rebuilding a bridge over the ditch. The policeman had left by the time David returned and discovered the error. Being a policeman, I think he must have slunk off with embarrassment over his mistake. He later (by phone) professed that they weren’t finished yet, but didn’t give a date when they would be. The electrician eventually turned up on Sunday, his name is Vlado. He is Russian and quite a nice chap, very laid back. He worked for a couple of hours and then left saying he would be back tomorrow. This was particularly disappointing as we had channelled out all the cable runs and purchased all the necessary cable with all sockets and switches and needed the work finished so that I could plaster the rooms before Genya came home on Tuesday. He did arrive at 9am and worked until 7pm. I was plastering just behind him, it is funny how you get to know somebody really well when you do that. When he left I completed the last bit of plastering by 8pm.

David got up at 5am on Sunday and started to clean the inside of the house. He also finished at 8pm, so you can see how much of a mess it had got into. The Turks spent the day clearing up the garden, they finished at 4.30pm (luckyTurks!). We had something to eat, drank the last of the beer (no incriminating evidence for Genya to find) and then retired to bed as we were up again at 6am to drive to Sofia (I was going home).

The Journey to the airport started well. We stopped for a drink just outside the city and everything continued well for a  few more miles and then we were in a jam. After crawling along for half an hour we discovered that the problem was a lorry broken down. To make things worse 20 meters after it was a broken down car (probably overheated while crawling along). We still crept along at a snails pace (and time went by) for a few miles to come across some gypsies pushing another broken down car among the traffic. Thinking that at last we had passed all the hazards, it was disappointing to creep along a few more miles to discover that they were felling trees all along the carriageway. After navigating this, we at last broke free and raced to 50 kmph and were soon at Terminal 1. I quickly said goodbye to David and raced to the check-in desk. I was the only one still checking in and was soon through security to the departure lounge.

I was due to fly out at 12.25pm with Wizz Air and Genya was flying in at 12.50pm with EasyJet. I saw the EasyJet flight land while I was boarding the bus to take us to the plane, but unfortunately didn’t have a chance to see Genya, before I boarded the plane. I slept most of the way and caught the train home from Luton. Sue picked me up at station.

There is a phrase: “No problem.” It has a different meaning in Bulgaria. In the UK it would mean, you can forget about it, the person has seen this before and is capable of completing the task to the standard required and you will be pleased with the result. Bulgarians use this phrase a lot, you hear it all the time. It means, they can see that there will be a problem, they have no idea what to do about it, they will attempt it using any tool (whether appropriate or not) and then look surprised when you point out that it was not what was asked for. After all, they are satisfied with the result.

Bulgarian/Turkish workers: own no tools. Electricians do not possess, pliers, pincers, screwdrivers wire cutters etc. Plasterers do not own any of the equipment necessary to carry out a plastering job, even labourers do not posses footwear or clothing suitable for labouring tasks, they don’t even possess gloves let alone any tools. They have to be provided with them. And, when they have finished using them, they drop them wherever they are at the time. Ask them for one of the tools they have been using, usually means a search of around 15 minutes before it is found or you give up and get another out of the tool store. When the snow arrived we practically had the contents of a hardware shop hidden under the white stuff for nearly a week.

Papa: He is the older of the 2 Turks. He has often demonstrated that his isn’t very bright, but he is extremely enthusiastic and hardworking. I like Papa a lot, even more so when he called me Papa until we discovered he was a year older than me. From that time on he gained the title of Papa. Papa has tried to torch himself on a couple of occasions. On one cold morning he attempted to start a small fire with a full can of petrol. Not surprisingly it detonated, blowing the can apart, causing a mushroom cloud and a singed Papa. Unfortunately I was inside and missed the fun. I also missed the occasion when to dry his wet fleece he placed it over the new woodburner we had bought and seemed surprised when it burst into flames. Unfortunately I was working outside at that time.  One time, it took quite a lot of persuading that when I was building a wall I was quite happy putting a trowel full of mortar onto the brickwork and expressed no need of any help. He insisted on heaping spade fulls of mortar onto the bricks and looked pleased with his effort as I scraped large amounts of excess off.  He spoke no English and understood no English profanities, not matter how loud. I know no Bulgarian insults. When ever David or I were cutting a pipe carefully to size, we had to be wary of where Papa was, as he loved to help out by stepping on the pipe as you were on the last cm or so (to help of course), usually the pipe would be the right size of course, but now have a Bulgarian chip out of the edge instead of a nice English straight edge.

Restaurants: Bulgarian food is nice, I enjoy it a lot. I love cheese. Bulgarian dishes all contain cheese. They do, read any menu and it has either white cheese or yellow cheese. I do not see the purpose of yellow cheese, it tastes of straw, you are supposed to be able to cook with it but when you do, it turns to grit. It is foul and should not be labelled cheese, they should use it for filling in the many pot-holes on their roads. When uncooked it is so chewy that it will wear away your enamel before being  able to be swallowed. The white cheese is wonderful, it is a Feta cheese. It tastes lovely in salads, with chicken, in soup, on pizza or on anything. It is the one Bulgarian cheese that I like. However, there are only 2 cheeses and they are named by colour.

Waitresses: In a Bulgarian restaurant do not expect the dish you have ordered to arrive at your table. Do not expect your starter to arrive before the main meal or even dessert. Certainly do not expect the vegetables to arrive with the meat course you have requested. Why this kept happening was revealed to me when I read the Wizz Air in flight magazine on the way home. In a section describing the various destinations they serve, they outlined several tips for each. For Sofia they also noted what I have just said and in their research discovered that Bulgarian waitresses bring to the table the elements of your meal as they are cooked, it is a Bulgarian oddity. It is bloody weird having a salad arrive instead of the chicken fricasse you ordered, even if it was nice. It is maddening having your fries arrive with your dessert and not the pork which would have gone cold half an hour ago if you had waited. As most food dishes do contain cheese, yes even the chips, I can forgive them. But they still have bloody weird eating habits. One more thing, most Bulgarian waitresses seem to do their job with THE boyfriend in tow. As a distraction I am sure it is the cause of many of the wrong meals being served. I surely is not necessary after taking an order for chicken paella to wander over to the love of her life for a quick kiss and fondle before telling the chef I have ordered a chicken salad! Forgetting the chips also ordered and then having to be called over to ask where the bottle of Zagorka was. I have a clay effigy, a lock of your hair and a some very sharp pins my dear, and you will be having a painful love life!

Bulgar bugs.

Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 15, 2011 by David Palmer

I failed to mention in the first Bulgarian blog that after 3 days I picked up a tummy bug (along with David) that made me take to my bed for a day and a half and though David continued to eat, there was ‘movement’ through his body for some 5 days (thought he might explode). I think the bug came from the eggs we were eating (in large quantities), the yokes appeared to vary in colour from milky yellow to bright orange (on hindsight, an obvious clue). We have not eaten any more eggs.

A couple of days ago I again felt unwell and took to my bed for most of a day. I had cooked a Thai Green Curry the previous evening and suspected that was the culprit, yet David was fine. So not sure.

The weather has turned wet and chilly. The last 2 days we have been working outside with the Turks. With rain most the day and the garden turning into something resembling the Somme, I was glad when the Turks went home and I could get changed into something dry and make a fire. Yesterday we constructed a set of steps from one garden into another higher up. It involved sorting out a land drainage pipe and gutter down pipe, which had to pass through them. It rained all day and the Turks were not very good at mixing the concrete and at times were a little too eager to help. They don’t appear to appreciate the value of using a spirit level or in the use of  concrete to make things stable. However, despite some amusing moments we finished it in record time and it does look rather good (and level).

Today is Wales v France and digging drains, with probably a few other tasks that will surprise us. The Turks have been levelling the ground for a path this morning. David and I explained how to do it, I drew a diagram to make it clearer. David then drove into Dryanovo to get the piping and I started to write this blog and listen to radio. I went out to check how they were getting on about half an hour. Despite showing them that after levelling the ground, they were to barrow sand onto the surface and then flatten that before putting down the plotchas (large flat stones) they had placed the plotchas onto the bare ground. Aghast, I had to tell them again to pick the heavy stones and go and get the sand and spread that. I left then to it. David has just arrived and commented that they hadn’t done much, so I explained. Unlike the Western European workman (I hope), the Bulgarian/Turk workman doesn’t prepare for any job, doesn’t put down sheets etc. to protect the owners surfaces or equipment, clean up at the end of the day, but most annoyingly use their initiative. When we were making the steps and before the concrete had gone off, I had to stop one of the Turks from trying to break plotchas on the steps because it was a convenient hard surface, twice!

Well the rugby has just started, so goodbye for now.


Was dry now wet!

Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 10, 2011 by David Palmer

While the UK was enjoying a record heat wave, we in Ritya were equally dry but always 3-4 degrees in temperature cooler. Now that the weather back home has turned, the same has happened here except the temperature has plummeted over the last 2 days to chilly and the rain fall has been steady and heavy. It has meant that all work on the house has been moved inside and the Turkish wall builders have failed to turn  up. I guess that quite rightly they did not fancy get wet, muddy and cold for 25 Levs a days (about £11). Unfortunately, if they had turned up they would have been working inside sanding down ceiling beams, just goes to show that we Brits do have a heart (probably caused the demise of the British Empire).

As the rain fell I set about replacing the screen on David’s Sony Viao (he had broken it) and after a couple of hours it was up and running and I bagged it for my personal use while I am here. So I have personalised it with all the software I need to communicate with the outside world. Much easier now that I don’t have to peer at a tiny screen and  use the rather basic software package on a Netbook. Never though I would say it, but thank you Bill G for Microsoft Office.

We have set about the rooms downstairs again, the plaster has dried and the woodwork mostly stopped smelling of the obnoxious woodworm liquid they were sprayed with. The paint tin has been put to use (white masonry) and so far over the last 2 days one of the bedrooms (to be) and the toilet shower room have been painted. We finished at 4am yesterday and got up at 7.30am to let the Turkish builders in, but as already mentioned they didn’t turn up. At noon we drove through the pouring rain to Veliko Tarnovo to do some shopping. Last week as we popped down the road to get some beer to refurbish dwindling stocks we sat out side the supermarket talking to a Bulgarian neighbour of David’s and his friend when the road was shut off by the police and 20 minutes later the Brazilian President and a very large cavalcade of cars sped by on his way from Sofia to Veliko. I wondered whether we would meet him in Practika or Metro while we were getting provisions (disappointingly we didn’t).

First thing we costed a lot of drainage pipes for the garden, but didn’t buy as we were only window shopping. David says he doesn’t know hardly any Bulgarian, yet he has enough vocabulary to make himself understood no matter what the subject. Next, at Practika we bought manly things, such as wood worm treatment, stain, cutting tools and other things that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in Sarah Beeny’s tool cabinet. We moved on to Metro and the more feminine purchases of cheese, yoghurt, beans, chicken etc. (wouldn’t have been out-of-place in Gordon Ramsay’s basket), to ensure that the checkout girl didn’t get the wrong idea of two fellas shopping together, we topped the trolley with a lump hammer and 12 x 2.5 litre bottles of beer (‘nough said). The quantity of beer was excessive but no doubt we will be manly. We drove back through the rain and forgot to call in (as planned) to see Ali in the Turkish sector of Dryanovo to tell him to turn up tomorrow. We will find out tomorrow. The annoying thing is that there are no clocks in the house and David lost his mobile phone the first week I was here, so he relies on the alarm on my phone to wake him up. That means when my alarm goes off (at 7.30am) I ring a bell at the side of my bed to wake him up, but mostly I have to get up and call him. He then goes downstairs to open the garden door so the Turks can get in at 8am. But of course it means that I am awake and don’t have a chance of a lie in!

Not mentioned the Rugby yet. I feel lucky that I am in one of the remotest places on Earth and don’t have access to live TV showing the World Cup. I had set up the Sony Viao (great sound system) to stream the match through Tunein (internet radio site). I had listened to the Welsh stuffing the Irish and with half an hour to go to the BIG match I decided to release some of the pent-up adrenalin by felling half a dozen trees or so in the field outside. I returned exactly as the match kicked off, now relaxed and ready to enjoy the French getting their comeuppance. After two penalties and a French try I picked up the chain saw again and passed David on my way to the field. He inquired as to what was happening in the match, when I didn’t reply he pushed the matter no further (you don’t  risk annoying someone with a chainsaw in their hands who doesn’t wish to speak). I felled a dozen more trees and returned just in time for the second half to kick-off. Dismayed to learn that another try had been scored and it wasn’t English I visited the loo, I took my time. On my return, WE SCORED! I listened expectantly, anticipating that we might do what we did to the Argentinians (get lucky). With a couple of minutes to go I picked up the chainsaw again. David didn’t even look up from the strimming he was involved in when I passed him (wise). After checking out the number of trees left down the side of the field (I was sure quite a few had legged it in the interim) I set about releasing some stress.  Later, sweaty and knackered I switched off the saw and sat down on a felled tree to recover. My mobile burst into life with incoming text. It was from Jim, currently enjoying the sun in Cyprus and of course had just watched the game in a Cypriot bar. It said, “England Lost, will have to support Wales now.” That bloody text cost me 50p to receive!!!!!!!!!! Good job he was around 1500 miles away or Brigitte would be married to one legless husband now.


Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 7, 2011 by David Palmer

The flight with WizzAir to Sofia on a Saturday night went without hitch. David was there in the Arrivals lounge at 3.40 am on Sunday morning to drive us Ritya, he had only just got there half an hour earlier and was determined to sett off straight away on the 3.5 hour return journey. We stopped once for coffee and a pastry thing which I couldn’t pronounce let alone spell, but it tasted ok.

We arrived about an hour after the sun had come up and decided that we should not sleep but to stay awake until the early evening. We walked around the village (was given a jar of honey by one of the Bulgarian neighbours), looked at the work that needed to be done on the house and sat and talked. I made lunch with the obligatory eggs. We retired early to bed at about 9pm. During the night I had a bit of a tummy ache and felt rather weird. The following morning I was a bit better, but after lunch (again with eggs) I felt really ropey during the afternoon and had to go and lie down. Thinking back I remembered that as I cracked the eggs to cook, they were all different shades of yellow and orange. I know suspected that some of them had been off.  Luckily I had some anti-biotics with me and started to take some. The following morning I felt better and David confessed that he wasn’t feeling too well. The eggs were not to be touched again! I made salad for lunches from then on.

The work on the house has been very hectic and at times chaotic, but is progressing roughly on track, though there has been many changes of plan which at times has been frustrating. But then a consensus has usually been had on what to tackle next and we both work hard and long and depite the occasional problems, things get sorted. We have had two Turks helping build the garden walls and we mostly have left them to it, except for giving them a level to work off and a plumb line  as these seem to be alien concepts. We went to Vittoria Tarnovo one afternoon and purchased a cement mixer to speed up the work, and it certainly did that. The amount of sand and cement needed of course increasesd and this entailed many journeys in the van to fetch it.. The solution was to level the field at the back with chainsaw and strimmer, hack out aceess into it and then have a lorry deliver 3 tonne of sand. This was done in 2 hours yesterday, during the heat of the day by the four of us. We sweated a lot, I cursed David a lot, and as I chopped the last tree stump done the lorry arrived. Dumped the sand and went.  We called it a day after that.

We have also had 3 Turkish/Bulgarian plasterers for nearly a week. They did the ceilings and walls in 4 rooms downstairs. Of course David and I had to rip the ceilings out and also part of the walls. We also insulated the ceilings, prior to plastering. We were up ’till 1am one day trying to keep ahead of the plastering. It is finished now, we are waiting for it to dry out before starting the next stage. What ever that is.

The main project was to re-roof the house, but that has now changed to patching up a few leaks as on advice it is too late in the season to take the roof off and the Bulgarian roofers have all said that the roof is ok for a few more years and and that if David is going to do it, he should do it properly and replace the beams and joists as well and have a complete new roof that will last 50 years instead of the 10 years with new latts etc. It has been decided to replace the roof early next year when Genya has retired fully.

Unlike last year, when we worked late and ate out each night, we have only been out a on three occasions, twice to eat and once to visit one of david’s friends in a village across the valley. Strange as it is, Keith also comes from Thurcroft. He has been here for 15 years, we think he is about 55 years old, looks about 40 years old. Has his mother staying with him, though she left last Saturday to return to Worksop after being there for 2.5 years. She was a very soft spoken lady, but looked ill and was returning to the UK for health reasons. Keith has a Bulgarian girlfriend (28yrs old) and she popped into see us while we were there. Keith was a disc jockey and we were treated to an evening of 60’s, 70’s and would have been 80’s pop videos if we hadn’t politely made excuses and left. A nice guy, but boy is he  loud, in your face and fixated on pop music of the past. He lives in a lovely house with stunning views over the hills and mountains. It has been up for sale for quite a while and I am sure would have sold the instant it had been put on the market except the 3/4 mile drive to it from the dirt track made David’ road to Ritya look like M1 Motorway. David had to have 2 runs at one steep section to get up it. If he sorted the road out I think it will sell. Otherwise the only type it would attract are those in possession of Sherman Tank.

During the evenings we have been watching some of the movies that I provided David with the last time he was in the UK. He has already watched all of them several times, he was grateful that I brought 2 new ones on a memory stick.

While the weather back in the UK has been blistering hot, it has just been quite warm here, thought the sun did turn up the heat about 4 days ago. The UK is now back to it’s more normal below 10 degrees temperature and I believe that from next Sunday we are about to join them.

I read about the England Scotland rugby match live on the BBC website as despite my best efforts I couldn’t locate a TV showing the World Cup games at all. I couldn’t event get an internet radio connection on this netbook I am using now. Then annoyingly, the day after I got all the channels I wanted on my mobile phone!!!! I listened to Wales Fiji game and now each day listen to Radio 5, so can keep up to date with the traffic accidents on the A14. On Saturday when England play France I shall find a nice comfortable place and listen to the game on my mobile.

I am still managing to produce the Rugby Club Newsletter form here, but the netbook that is available is very limited and trying to read what you have written on  an envelope sized screen is not easy. David has a broken computer that I attempted to fix last week. Replacing the broken screen is pretty straight forward but getting at the mother board is proving impossible at the moment bas it is a specialised Sony Viao. When it rains one day it will give up its secrets or die!!!!!