Archive for Oct, 2012

Time to put a coat on.

Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 29, 2012 by David Palmer

One of the Brits who owns a house in the village arrived on Saturday and as predicted by David the weather changed for the worse when they arrived. It appears that they come several times each year and when they do the weather responds appropriately. Prior to their arrival we were having hot sunny days and beautiful orange sunsets and mild starry nights. It rained on Saturday evening as they arrived, it rained in the morning on Sunday and today it has tipped it down in the afternoon with cloud down to ground level. The grind of concreting around the pool is nearly complete and we have at last started to re-tile the walk-way.

Re-Tiling: We started this on Friday morning. Like good workmen we discussed how we were going to do it during the morning and by 4pm we were still no further into solving how it was going to be done other than we had drawn a line where we would eventually start and we were nearly agreed on which direction we would go. As it was then likely to get dark before we got the tools etc. out we moved into the barn and completed digging a hole for one of the new pillars to strengthen the beams.

On Saturday we went to Vittoria Tarnovo to find some tiles that would match the ones we had broken. David spotted 8 similar tiles in a Builder’s Merchant’s Yard just outside VT, but they were shut. We visited quite a few DIY outlets, but only managed to buy 4 nuts to replace the 2 that had fallen off the Stihl chainsaw (when I was using it). David nearly bought a UPS for the central heating, but he did buy a jacket for Banjo in readiness for the cold weather. We returned empty tileless and in the dark.

On the Sunday we started early, laid out the tiles, mixed the mortar, had a few more discussions and then attempted to lay the first six. We broke two. None would stay level or in line. By lunchtime and several liftings up and re-laying we were thoroughly despondent. After lunch we again tried a few more new ideas and got further depressed. Luckily, the British visitors arrived for a ‘Hello’ and a ‘What are you up to? Of course their arrival heralded the start of the rain which stopped any further tiling and a now probable suicide pact.We replaced the chains on the chainsaws instead, before calling it a day.

Today (Monday), we again started early (even before either of us had visited the loo, it was that worrying). A sloppy mix and a tile at a time, with a redefinition of the word ‘crap’ was the chosen way ahead.The sloppy mortar and single tile laying proved a partial success, but the re-definition of the concept of ‘crap’ to ‘acceptable’ was hugely successful. We discovered that life became infinitely easier without using a spirit level. Things which appeared misaligned, were now just a point of view,when standing further away or from the other side, armed with our new definition of ‘acceptable’, it all looked  pretty good. With further refinement of the placement of mortar from a central pyramid, to four corner blobs, and then eventually two parallel lines, we had a method that we could control the height of the tile in all directions. After a couple of rows ‘superbly laid’ (to our new definition structure) we broke for lunch (10 egg omelette ). Keen and eager to return to our work, a barrow load of ‘perfectly engineered’ mortar was mixed , and we both set about the task of ‘precisely laying’ a huge quantity of tiles. After just a couple of rows, the rain came and we retired to the barn and cleaned some of the old tiles. When the rain went we set about our task again. Not many more rows were in situ before Milen and a friend turned up to discuss Bulgarian matters. As they left the skies opened up and we stopped for the day. Who said tiling was difficult? The trick  is realising that it is just a state of mind, I think we might just apply that concept to some of our other jobs, the Bulgarians do!

Concreting around the pool has been quite a task and taken up most of our days, though we did go to the Market in Dryanovo to look for chainsaw nuts. David came away with 3 pairs of socks, a pair of second-hand work trousers, two bunches of leeks (one turned out to be spring onions) and a bag of onion sets. I bought a kilo of walnuts as my morning walk with banjo hunting for them off the local trees is getting evermore fruitless and the last couple of days have yielded just 2. The black Bulgarian squirrel is much better at finding them than my sandy Bulgarian walnut hound. The leeks were planted in the garden the following day, in readiness for the spring, the same will happen to the onions (sometime).

The other evening, whilst laying on the bed listening to Radio 4 on my Android phone, I was disturbed by David smashing a large hole in a wall outside my room. He had decided in some extra-curricular (and wisely chosen not to involve me). Any hope of a brief snooze was dashed! I await my revenge when he decides to have a quite moment or two to himself, and I think I may chainsaw the tree opposite his bedroom.

The last few evenings (after dinner)we have started to work our way through the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy on TV, we have decided to follow it up by tackling the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Our evening meals have not always been a resounding success. Last week I made a curry from what I thought was a nice pack of frozen chicken pieces. When they were defrosted it contained regular lumps of what I assumed were of the finest cuts. They certainly fried well, but when the rice and curry was added it did seem to contain rather a lot of oil. Upon eating, the whole meal tasted of absolutely nothing (despite being heavily curried), and left a sickly greasy feeling inside the mouth. After very close inspection I recognised the chicken pieces as ‘parson’s noses’, or chicken ‘bums’ was my explanation to David. Two plates of chicken curry was scraped into Banjo’s dish. He descended on the feast with gusto and after one mouthful slunk away in disgust, it went in the bin. We had rice pudding.

During the week, the electricity went off for most of the day (it stopped us concreting). We had a visit from another resident in the village checking whether our power was on, he was from Doncaster and though he had owned one of the houses for the last 9 years, it was his first visit in 4 years. He was checking on how it was and was leaving on Saturday. We gathered that he ran a business of some sort in the UK and it wasn’t doing very well. He was contemplating moving to Bulgaria permanently. He seemed a rather embittered fellow and nether of us cared much for him, if he does move over here I don’t think David will be having much to do with him.

Charlotte: Lucas has informed her that she is now old and wrinkly.

Sarah: Is friends with ducks, and will be going home for Halloween.

Jamie: Has fallen out with Harley again.

Nan: Is enjoying life in Harborough, but annoyed that she was billed for the warden service at her place.

Sue: Is still busy picking vegetables and went out for lunch with Nan. Though it appears to be cold back in the UK, she has yet to make a fire or put the central heating on.


Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 21, 2012 by David Palmer

Visiting David means working on several projects that he has thought up over the summer. Sorting out the collapsed walk ways around the pool is priority, followed by finishing the barn roof that was erected by a couple of Bulgarians, then replacing the kitchen ceiling which part has fallen down. In the past it has been difficult to keep David focused on the more important tasks that need to be done, he is guilty of wandering off at a tangent and forgetting the purpose of me being here.  This year he has been much better and our discussions on planing what needs to be done next to achieve the goal of completing the task have been a much less frustrating affair. On the few occasions we have not been able to work on the pool, we have been able to make a start on the barn. In the past we would have jumped randomly between all the tasks and even attempt to start some others. The pool is taking some serious concreting as we are determined to ensure that it will not slip, slide or collapse again in our lifetime. On the few occasions we have moved on to work on the barn because of rain or more usually waiting for concrete to go off or materials to arrive from the builder’s merchant, we have discovered a lot of remedial work that needs to be done before the winter (more on that later).

The pool: Initially, I thought this would take about a week, but as we discover the shoddy workmanship as we peel back the layers a better estimate would be 3 weeks, but we shall see. Where we were expecting to see concrete, we found something called ‘sippet’, which is material not unlike crushed breeze blocks, that is used under the pool tiles. When you water it , it apparently goes hard (it obviously didn’t). The builders started to use concrete (as they should) but then changes to the much easier to lay ‘sippet’ for most of the tiled surface. The bits that were concreted (to depth of 2 inches) have slipped very little, but where there is ‘sippet’ the movement as been as much as 12 inches.  There is no way of knowing what is under the surface until you take the tiles off, except when it is concrete the tiles often break and on ‘sippet’ they do not.

We discovered that where the skimmer takes the overflow away from the pool and returns it to the pump it was not in its own housing, it had been covered in compacted soil and overlaid with concrete. How you were to fix it if it ever went wrong (and it does leak) is anybody’s guess. We had to dig it out and make a culvert for it (we have yet to work out what removable cover is going over it). The foundation for the pool walkway is only 2-3 inches at most, we have been putting in footings of 6 inches, battens of 8 inches and then a layer of metal reinforced concrete of 4 inches. We have yet to finish or relay the tiles. Whilst digging out one side of the pool walk way we broke through into a well. The builders had put several stones over it and left it. After a discussion, we decided to cap it in concrete as we couldn’t see the bottom and would take too much time and material to fill it first. Besides, David thought he might make it into a garden feature next to the pool at a later date (when I am not there). Other than finding gaping chasms between the various layer of material, which we fill with concrete, we are making many rodents, lizards and snakes homeless by taking there homes away from them.

The barn: There is no doubt that Bulgarian workers are cheap, they earn around 25 Levs a day, which David pays 30 Levs (around 2 Levs to the £1).  I remember an old phrase, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” The main problem we have with the workers that David employs is that nothing is a problem, until they actually start something.The barn had been apparently finished, yet the roof tiles had not been cut in half on the alternate rows and hung over the edge (we cut them off). Two of the cross beams were not sufficiently supported and were bending alarmingly, we put supports under them. The base of the wooden pillars hadn’t been concreted in to prevent movement, we concreted them. The roof was supported on one side by short pillars on top of a stone and mud wall , we strengthened and concreted them. There are still a couple of roof supports that we intend to replace as instead of being one complete piece of wood there two separate pieces apparently balanced on top of each other. We have also to board the back of the barn and build up the supporting walls to the same height, put in some guttering and lay the down pipes into the drains, plus wire in some lighting and sockets.

The kitchen ceiling: We have yet to do anything with this other than chat about what can be done. The present solution is to rip down all  the ceiling and because there is concrete behind, we intend to use expanding bolts to fix beams to it then fix insulation board between the beams (probably use raw plugs and screws to fix these, then plaster over the top of that. It should look quite rustic. We shall see what happens.

The days have been busy, up at 8am, working by 9am, finishing at 7pm for our evening meal. Lunch has usually been a salad (mainly from the garden) and the evening meal being a variety of things that I think I can make. Apart from visits to the Builder’s Merchant in Dryanovo for materials we have only been out a few times, and that is for a meal in the evening. The fair arrived in Dryanovo this week and on Thursday we ate at the Sporting Hotel next to the fair. David parked among the side stalls. The meal took a couple of hours and when we returned to the car all the stalls had closed except the one across the road for the car. As we started the car to move off, a Bulgarian tapped on the side window and told us we had a flat tyre (which we had) and gestured to the side of the pavement saying it was sharp. I thought that is odd, the flat tyre was on the road side. David had an electric pump, and in a couple of minutes (observed by the stall holders) the tyre was inflated. While I was watching I noticed that one of our tyres was over a cable the led to the open stall. I worked out that they couldn’t close for the night like the other stall holders as they couldn’t roll up their electricity supply until we had moved. Strangely our flat tyre wasn’t flat the following morning!

During the week David had a visit from a couple that he knew who were British. They told him they had come upon hard times and were going back to the UK and did he want to buy their car (on questioning it turned out to be on hire purchase), and could he lend them money for their flights home. They left empty hand but with a carrier bag full of ripe tomatoes out the garden. What a cheek.

The weather has been mostly kind to us, the evenings have been warm and because we are so far away from the electric lights of civilisation, the stars at night are superb  the Milky Way can clearly be seen. I love to lie in bed looking at the passing aircraft crossing the spangled darkness and listening to the jackals calling to each other in the distance. Banjo has been a delight. He is full of fun. Each morning I take him for a walk and we hunt for walnuts under the trees in the surrounding area. When both pockets are full we come back and a sit outside the kitchen, crack them open and I share them with him. I am not sure if they are good for him , but he like me loves them and can’t get enough. It has been getting progressively harder to find the walnuts, and we have to roam ever further, annoyingly when I find what should be a good tree there are little piles of opened shells underneath, I wonder what squirrel tastes like?

I keep in touch with the rest of the family and friends through email, Facebook and Skype. Here is their news:

Sue: She has been baby sitting for Charlotte while she and Suraj attended Lucas’s Parents Evening. Luckily he got a good report. She went to the Harborough cinema and enjoyed the film, though she forgot to say which it was. She has started to pick the white grapes and turn them into juice and also she has started to freeze the sweetcorn as they have started to turn yellow. She visited Bigette and Jim during the week as well as have lunch with Nan and call to see next door neighbour Doreen.

Sarah:  Sarah is going to Alton Towers with friends from Uni, and on Friday she went to Skegness with Lee. We have chatted a couple of times on Skype, and I think she is getting a little bored with her Uni work and is keen to get on with some research that she needs to do for her assignments. One of her flatmates has been ill and she has been a Florence Nightingale and been looking after them.

Jamie: Not heard anything from Jamie recently other than he brought round 32 chops for Sue( I know what she will be eating for a couple of weeks). Last week, he Charlotte and Sarah went collecting chestnuts near Foxton, though I believe they weren’t ready.,

Charlotte: Had a massage and facial. She helped sort out Nan’s  Care Warden costs with the Council and

Playing with Banjo

Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 17, 2012 by David Palmer

Curry Night on the Friday (5th) was without Sarah  who was now back at Uni and with Ellis managing to keep the contents of his stomach within himself  (last week he threw up over Charlotte just as they were leaving). Jamie had been given a pay rise and he had received a bonus of £300 for getting an order for the company he works for.

The following day Sue gave me a lift to the train station to catch a train to Manchester Airport. Illogically I travelled First Class all the way there as it was considerably cheaper than going standard (work that one out!) The three trains I had to catch were on time and the seats comfortable. I arrived in plenty of time at the airport to eat the sandwiches that Sue had made for me, before passing through security as I had already checked in on-line with EasyJet.  The flight left on time and I had no one sitting next to me on the flight (great). David was true to his word and met me in Arrivals at Sofia clutching his new acquisition, Banjo at around 9pm. Banjo sat on my lap for the 3.5 hour journey to Ritya. We stopped off once so that Banjo could stretch his legs, do the necessary and for us to have a coffee and a huge sausage roll.

Banjo is a puppy that just over a month ago when they were returning from a shopping trip to Sevlievo had chased their car on a remote part of the road on their journey home. It was obvious that he was just a few weeks old and had probably been dumped there for the jackals to feed on (it is what they do there with unwanted pets). After stopping and running away a couple of times, he eventually got caught after hiding under the car. They took him home, washed and de-loused him, and over the next few days spent a fortune in vets bills on inoculations etc. (he even has a passport . He is a gorgeous dog. He is an odd dog. His front legs are shorter than his back legs as is the size if  his paws. His body is low to the ground and strangely long for his size. His head is slightly too large for his body and he has a rather a long neck. He has beautiful ears and eyes that would melt any heart. He has a great sense of fun and I am glad that it is David’ s house that he uses as an occasional toilet. He now follows me where ever I go, as I am the one that feeds him (I do the cooking), and in an evening we sit on the settee together watching a film and sharing a beer (he easily gets a little tipsy).

It is planned that on this visit that we mainly sort out the swimming pool that had dropped down at one end and gone a little skew-whiff in other parts. We have been working on it in fits and starts, due to disturbances by friends and neighbours plus some inclement weather. We have dug out footings, concreted a lot of battens and laid two very long concrete beds ready to re-tile. We have also strengthened a barn roof that he has had built, as it was also slipping in the same direction as the pool. We have a Bulgarian helping us, but he turns up at odd times (in true Bulgarian fashion).  I have been making salads at lunchtimes and cooking in the evenings. I prefer this arrangement as David does all the cleaning and washing up and having sampled David’s culinary skills I prefer not to be poisoned. We have been out a couple of times to eat in the evenings as on those occasions we didn’t stop concreting until well into the dark (it does make seeing the spirit level difficult) and we were too tired to cook and clean up afterwards.

David has an iPad, so to access the net I had to dig out his old Sony Vaio that was again broken and fix it. at least I didn’t have to replace the screen this time.

The other night there was a tremendous storm that rocked the house for hours, it was wonderful watching the countryside light up through my bedroom window.

Each morning I take Banjo for a walk and collect walnuts that have fallen off the tress down the cart track,  then I sit down outside the kitchen and share them with Banjo for breakfast. I am sure they are very good for me , but not so sure they are good for dog’s, but he does love them!

Unfortunately, Suraj and Charlotte were at a carboot sale last Sunday and Charlotte had her purse stolen. They informed security at the site and the police came and arrested a group of girls that were still stealing purses etc. at the place. It appears that proceedings are taking place against them. But not before they had attempted to empty Charlotte’s bank account, so it looks like they are part on organised bunch of thieves. I suspect they will turn out to be Eastern European. I think the Rothwells are now trying to sort out bank cards etc.

Sue informs me that she has been picking vegetables in the allotments and sharing them out among the family (particularly Nan). The tomatoes appear to have suffered with some frosts and have gone rotten, though she has managed to make green tomato chutney with some of them. The white grapes are getting a bit riper, though whether they can be harvested before the hard frosts arrive and squidge them we shall have to see. It has been such a rubbish summer that ripening anything has been a problem for gardeners.

David has gone into Dryanovo this morning to fetch more stuff to continue the pool and left me with Banjo. It is quite cloudy outside, but warm, so hopefully we should get quite a bit done today when he returns.


Posted in Uncategorized on Oct 2, 2012 by David Palmer

Things have quietened down a bit, and a modicum of normality has  returned. Jobs are getting done around the house (in readiness for the winter), the balcony has been stripped and repainted, the hedges/trees have been trimmed and lopped. As a Fiesta cannot carry as much as a Stilo Estate, the number of trips to the dump has doubled to get rid of all the branches. The vegetables and fruit are continuing to be picked, though I am beginning to despair of the white grapes and sweetcorn as though they are big (some would brag, huge), they are showing no signs of sweetening! The courgette flood has ceased (a sure sign that the autumn is here), and the greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers have all but finished now. Sunday I cleaned the bottom of the pool, as a bit of sand had got under the cover due to the  regular rain we appear to suffer from during the summer months. I didn’t get around to finishing it and putting the cover back on until today (Tuesday), I noticed that the water was crystal clear and cold before I poured in the hypochlorite, another sign that the swimming season is over.

I had a text from Joan and Phil that they were in the country. Phil’s brother had been poorly for quite a awhile and it was expected that he wouldn’t be around for much longer.  On the same day I had a phone call from Richard Blewitt checking up on whether I was going to his 60th birthday bash at the local Golf Club that coming Saturday. I gave him Joan’s contact number and they also got an invite. On the Saturday, Sue and I  attended the party. It was lovely to see Joan and Phil again, but a l little disappointing that Roger had not got an invite and could have met the Italian Twosome. Roger and Richard didn’t particularly like each other so I suppose it was to be expected. The fo0d was good and plentiful, the music was of our era and I knew most of the guests, though I did try to avoid talking to some (without success). We left soon after Joan and Phil when the disco kicked into gear. Yes, it has come to that time of life, my excuse is I have a gammy leg and Sue’s was that it was way past her bedtime.

I have managed a couple of walks with an old friend, John Lee. Out of the blue he suggested we meet up and go for a canter around the field of Leicestershire. He was undergoing treatment for cancer and I wasn’t sure whether it was a wise thing to do, but last Tuesday we met up in Uppingham and had a lovely 3 hour walk and a splendid lunch of quail and rabbit pie in a local pub. John seemed his old self, no indication of the treatment he was undergoing, and though we chatted a bout the ‘old days’ and what we had been up to in the intervening years we didn’t touch on the subject of his ills (we just climbed the hills). As we parted for the journey home he asked if we could do it again next week, so we did.

On the Saturday I and Roger went on a Council walk to Manton (next to Rutland Water). I was surprised to see an old work colleague Debbie Goodband among the walkers, she had been at Richard’s party the previous Saturday. As she had been an old flame of Roger’s he was particularly glad to see her, surprisingly he didn’t mention Fran during the whole 3 hour walk. It was a particularly scenic amble, well planned and the weather was great. Lunch at the Horse and Jockey was very welcome. As I dropped Roger off in Harborough my mobile went off  and I was reminded by Jim that Tigers were playing Exeter on ESPN at the Angel. I duly got my bike out and spent the rest of the afternoon watching the match.

Today, I walked again with John. I planned a trip to Broughton-on-the-Hill. We met at the Stilton Cheese pub in Sonersby. The walk took a little under 4 hours, and the weather was sunny, but windy. On the top of the hill fort we had some difficulty in standing. The terrain was very up and down hill and proved to be a good workout, which made the pint and lasagna back at the pub even more welcome. As we left, I promised to meet up for a walk  when I got back from Bulgaria.

Last Sunday, the auction came to an end that Suraj had done for me on ebay to sell Nan’s stairlift. The winner wanted to pick it up on Monday at 9am.  After confirming with the buyer by telephone that he would be there, I set off that night up to Thurcroft. The house was chilly, but I went straight  to bed and was soon snug and warm. Good as his word, he turned up on the dot and removed the lift in no time at all.  It was going to be fitted in a house in Cambridge the following day. As soon as he left, magically Sarah turned up in her KA. She had been to see Lee and now had come for lunch. We visited the estate agents to check up on things, then I replaced a fuse in her car as it had blown and was preventing her from charging her mobile phone up. I decided to pick a solicitor to deal with the house and we gave a couple  a visit in Wickersley before choosing one of the. After instructing them with the basic details I promised to return after lunch and fill in the forms that would be prepared for me. We had lunch in Whiston, then Sarah left for Sheffield (she had some training to do that evening) and I returned and filled in endless forms at the solicitors, after which I drove back to Harborough.

There has been no mention of Sue, Charlotte or the boys. They have been to the seas side! Sue had a days work at Church Langton on the Tuesday and the following day she went with Charlotte and boys to stay with Philippa and Paul in Buckfastleigh. I mention that Sue worked in school as she picked up a heavy cold and suffered for it, then passed it onto Charlotte. The weather was kind to them and they seemed to have filled their days, visiting the beach on quite a few occasions.

Photo: Look out point on burgh islandPhoto: Rock poolingPhotoPhoto: Nanny crab hunting like the good old daysPhoto

While Charlotte was away, Suraj was on a course in London  with an exam on the Friday (despite  illness and loneliness, he passed!)  . The course entailed him commuting on the train each day. Having acquired a dose of  conjunctivitis  (probably a computer virus caught from the screen) it prevented us meeting up to watch a film and have a curry during the week. However,  he had recovered sufficiently for us to watch Looper (good film) on the afternoon of the ladies (and lads) return to Leicestershire. Luckily as I had stopped to drop Suraj off in Rothwell, Sue rang me on my mobile to say they were 5 minutes away and asked if I could pick her up in Rothwell. What luck!  Seeing how bouncy the boys were I guessed that Philippa and Paul would both be both exhausted and fast asleep back in Buckfastsleep.