Archive for Nov, 2012

And the rain came down!

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 28, 2012 by David Palmer

Since returning from Bulgaria it seems to have rained most days. The ground is absolutely sodden to the state that it can’t absorb anymore water. Any rain that falls just lies on the surface and forms puddles. My daily bike rides have been such muddy affairs that  I avoid most of my favourite routes as the wheels get clogged with mud and make progress too hard work. For the first time in a long while I skidded on the slippy surface and came off, only to hit the ground with what I thought (in slow motion) was going to hurt, to find that the ground was so soft it was like landing on a pillow, the only damage done was loss of pride and the addition of a lot of brown mud.

Sue had told me that the river had been ‘up’ a few times while I was away, last week we had a few days where the rain did not stop falling at all and the river rose and rose until at 3am in the morning (yes, we were awake) it looked as if it was going to over top the bank. Listening to the radio it sounded like most of the country was under water already. I remember that way back last May, the Water boards announced that there was a water shortage and there was a hose-pipe ban. It doesn’t appear to have  stopped raining since that announcement.

The river level didn’t start to drop until the following evening and it took a further day to settle back into its proper bed! I took a walk through the fields around the farm Shop and most of them were under water as was a great deal of Welland Park.  Twenty cars or so parked down by the railway station got washed away and quite a lot of houses in the town were inundated. The weather forecast for the rest of the month is for freezing temperatures and possible snow.

Even though most days have been wet and miserable I have been out with the chainsaw felling trees and cutting logs into manageable sizes. Currently I have enough wood cut and stored away to last most of the winter, but there is wood out there that I have put the chainsaw to but not been able to retrieve as they have been under water (hope they haven’t floated away!) I will go and check on them some time later this week. There is a large sycamore on the river bank opposite the house, that I noticed was rotten. I will have to take it down soon as it will fall into the river and could block its flow, and there is the problem, the river is presently too deep for me to fell it. I meant to give it the chop during the summer but never managed to get around to it. We shall see.

Sue has been called a few time to work at Church Langton. There is a new Head who has been keen to cover to classes, but it seems that reality is starting to kick-in and he is finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with things. I think they should be called Managers now not Headteachers, you don’t need to have the ability to teach, only cope with paperwork.  We went on a council walk near Pitsford reservoir, the rain held off for once and it was nice to see everyone again. There were quite  few new additions to the group. We had an excellent lunch at the Swan in Holcot, I had the trout which was caught in the reservoir and it was really very good. The following week I took my mother there for lunch and we both had the trout, despite being a fussy eater she was very impressed.

It is that time of year when  international rugby becomes quite important to the planning of my days. The following day after returning from Bulgaria and went with Jim to watch the Maori All Blacks take on a Leicester Tigers side. We were treated to a thrilling game where the Maori’s lost there first game in 5 years. The rest of my viewing has been through the TV either at the Angels or the Rugby Club, but sadly not with the same success. England (though playing well) have not managed to beat any of the southern hemisphere sides they have played so far and they have the World Champions this weekend (could be painful).

Friday nights curry was changed recently to Bulgarian Night. I cooked a couple of Bulgarian dishes (Mish Mash and Gyuveche), that I had enjoyed over there. They didn’t taste quite the same, but I faithfully followed the recipes I found on the Net,  the family said they enjoyed them (not sure how true that was).  This week it is going to be Thai Night, Charlotte and I are cooking a dish each (she has been having lessons with a Thai friend).

On Monday the men in the family had a bonding session. Suraj and Jamie booked the day off work and despite the rain we drove to Daventry to have a go at off-road Segwaying. It was brilliant fun and a great laugh. I am afraid I was the first to fall off, gunning it across some rough ground, soon followed by Suraj who decided to fly over a little hillock without his machine  and then to finish it off Jamie got in a bit of a spin on his ,while desperately  trying to hang on. We must go again after Christmas.

Afterwards we had lunch at a new pub in Harborough before swinging our clubs at Corby driving range (the plan was to play golf but the course was shut due to being waterlogged). Unfortunately on Suraj’s first swing, he smashed his new carbon-fibre club. Though highly amusing Jamie and I didn’t laugh (much).

Afterwards we drove to Kettering and watched ‘At the end of duty’ at the cinema. It was documentary style film of two LA Cops, with a sad ending, but worth seeing.

Sarah has been to visit Lee a couple of times over the last two weeks and also managed to complete two essays (they don’t have to be in until February). She has been enjoying doing a spot of mentoring to some youthful criminals and she has joined a panel who monitor domestic disputes etc.  She is looking forward to going to Blackpool with friends from Uni (not sure when). Nan and I did go up to Thurcroft last week and stayed overnight. We went to check on the house and visit a few people. The house was as we left it around 2 months ago. We visited Nicky to see how her pregnancy was getting on (11 weeks to go) before driving over through the floods to Braithwell to pay Nan’s gardener (Harry) for mowing the lawn. From there we went to see Aunt Edna. Surprisingly, despite having a stroke the last time we saw her, she was much livelier and though her speech was a little slurred, her memory seemed much improved. We stayed about an hour and a half and left to see Sarah as Edna had her tea ready. We picked Sarah up and fed her at a very nice Pub that had very reasonable prices before student food shopping in Morrisons (£53!!!).

During the last few weeks Suraj an I have been to the cinema to see a couple of films. I enjoyed ‘Looper’ and despite having to listen to an annoying trailer of it each half hour on the Bulgarian radio station that I listened to while being in Bulgaria (and promising David never to watch it), I found that ‘Skyfall’ was excellent. Much better than any of the previous Bond movies and well worth a visit.

In a coincidence, last week I helped Jamie change a tyre on his car as he had picked up a puncture and later in the day I took my car to the garage to get a tyre repaired that had a slow puncture. Spooky!

Lost, found & returned.

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 13, 2012 by David Palmer

Having had a run of good weather the work on the pool went well, especially with early starts and late finishes. Things improved when faced with the prospect of not having enough tiles to complete the work (due to the  number of broken tiles during renovation), David and Milen discovered that a Builder’s Merchant about an hour away by car actually made the ones supplied for his pool! When they returned with 30 yellow tiles, for some reason the red ones didn’t break as easily (I wonder if that has anything to do with calling anyone refusing to face up to a difficult situation as yellow?). Armed with tiles in abundance the remaining empty sections were quickly filled with tiles. Having spent 5 weeks religiously leveling the work at each stage (footings, foundation, coping stones, concrete pan and finally each tile) much to the amusement and  incredulity of the Bulgarians that visited, it was so satisfying to lay the last line of tiles which were started from one side of the pool next to those started at the opposite side, to find that they lined up exactly alongside t the same height!!!!! The original Bulgarian builders had inserted half and quarter tiles at three diffident points around the pool as they hadn’t thought a head about making them fit exactly, so had to cut the tiles to make them fit. Milen, who was our greatest critic, because of our insistence that  we  measured everything and used the spirit level on all surfaces, he would just shake his head and tell us to use our eyes instead of wasting time. I don’t think he was impressed when on a previous occasion I grubbed up a section of concrete pan that he had laid as when I checked the levels it was  3 cm too high, so I relaid it.  He didn’t turn up for work for 3 days after that. His wife Maria accompanied him back to work (she speaks excellent English). We gauged that she had put her foot down and told him to get back to work as he  had to spend the next 3 days sleeping in their 2nd home in Ritya on his own, to make sure that he turned up for work. He admitted later that she had kicked him out of bed that morning and drove him here. The change was quite remarkable,  Milen loved his beer and would often be seen having a glass while working and lunch times were often very long (in the Bulgarian fashion). Stopping him doing things in the Bulgarian way was a bit of a battle at times and having to explain why we wanted it done a certain way was a constant drain on time. It all suddenly stopped. He questioned nothing, did everything as asked (used the spirit level!) and each day worked through lunch, despite us requesting he joined us and even worked on after we had stopped for the day. When we regularly offered him a beer he politely refused and even took our cajoling on whether he was feeling well. The work proceeded at a much quicker pace. He seemed particularly pleased when after politely inquiring when I was going back to the UK, I told him it was next Monday.

When I laid the last tile, I called Milen over to show him that they now all matched up exactly, all the way around the pool. When I asked him if that was OK, he reluctantly nodded. RULE BRITANNIA!!!!!!!!

About a week earlier, while working on digging out the base for the top of the pool we discovered a pipe going along the entire side. A couple of weeks before that, at the other end of the pool, we had discovered an up pipe of the same gauge. At the time we had poured water down it to discover that it poured out through one of the barn walls. We extended that pipe above the surface to prevent it being concreted in, and decide to leave discussion on what it was for and what we were going to do about it until later.  We now poured water down this new pipe and discovered that they were connected. It dawned on us that the pool side had its own drainage system, they had been set in place but instead of the  draining grills being placed over them and tiled around, the builders had concreted and tiled over them. We found the grills in one of the barns, placed then in position and tiled around, as they should have been. We have TV programmes in the UK about things like this : ‘Cowboy Builders’.

Completing the pool released us to concentrate on the other jobs: The barn beams and pillars were put in to strengthen the structure and the rear paneling was completed. We took down quite a lot of trees at the back of the house that looked rotten in places and were threatening to fall against the wall/roof. They were also a highway for squirrels into the loft, they are now no more. While we were doing this, we had a visitor. He was Bulgarian (spoke no English), but David ascertained that he lived in a house up in the village (it was the house that David had originally come to the village to look at and possibly buy, but had decide it was going to be too much work to renovate). He pointed out that the chain saws we were using needed sharpening,  as we had finished chopping the trees, he joined us in David’s yard and kindly sharpened them for us. He invited us around that evening at 7pm.  As it was David’s birthday (44 yrs), we were going into Dryanovo that night to have a celebration meal (he didn’t fancy me making a special chicken-bum curry!),  we were not keen on making a visit, but thought that we should make an appearance and then politely make our excuses and leave for the restaurant. When we arrived with 2 litre bottle of beer in hand as an offering we discovered that his friend Emile was there also. They insisted we had barbecued sausage (excellent) and tried a couple of glasses of his Rakia. We seemed to hitting it off with them and we got a tour of the house (recently renovated). It was quite stunning, it had been done to the highest standard and David was quite envious of what had been achieved. On return to lounge, our hosts insisted that they get out their selection of special salted meats , they again were delicious (not a leaf of salad in sight or any veggie’s anywhere to be seen). By now David had drunk too much to drive, so reluctantly we decided to accept our hosts hospitality. Out came the home-made whisky, winch was indeed very smooth and though not a whisky drinker, was quite moreish. This prompted a visit to one of the barns that has kitted out as a distillery. It was fascinating, he had barrels of the stuff! It was obvious that the guy (Catcha), was short of a penny or two. He lived in Gabrovo (a town about an hour away) and owned a chain of garages. Emile was one of his mechanics who was staying over the weekend while they chopped firewood in readiness for the winter. We think that Catcha was planning on having Christmas there with his wife and children and was getting things sorted out in readiness. On return to the lounge, after even more meat and whiskey, we left some time later. David an I both woke up the following morning feeling a little under the weather, probably the long days of work and late nights having caught up with us. I had a coffee and took Banjo for a long, long walk down through the woods. David lay on a sun lounger by the re-tiled pool and attempted recovery.

On my return, he suggested we go for a walk to recover! He drove us over to the cliffs you can see across the valley from my bedroom window (which despite having looked at for 4 years, have never visited). The view was quite spectacular. When we returned, our hosts of the previous night arrived. They came to look at the windows that apparently David had asked their advice on the previous night. he wandered around looking at the windows from the outside. He avoided letting them go inside with the excuse that the inside was untidy as we were ripping down ceilings (partly true). He promised to invite them around next weekend for something to eat and drink after he had cleaned up.

It would be true to say that Sarah is the most untidy member of our family, but she is nowhere in the same league as David. We have an agreement that I do the cooking and he does the cleaning. We eat regularly but that is where the contract falls down. Usually, washing the pots and pans is promised for the following morning, yet rarely happens. On the day of our visitors, David hadn’t done the pots for over a week and a half. To exacerbate things, what ever David touches/uses, when he has finished with it, gets put down where ever he is, and there it remains. There are tools, crockery and eating utensils scattered all over the house and garden. The only items ever returned to their proper homes are the ones used by myself. When I left for the UK. all the every day crockery (a set of 8) were scattered asunder (with the remains of food on them that Banjo had decided wasn’t worth a lick) and the best crockery (set of 6) had all been used except 2 side dishes. Anything left in the house for more than a few days had around 2 millimetres of dust, wood chippings etc. covering them. There were no pots, pans or crockery left that could be cooked with or eaten off when I left for the UK (lucky me).

David can never find anything. He uses Genya’s purse for money and cards. It looks a little odd in restaurants and Builder’ s Merchants etc. when he get the purse out to pay the bill, he fails to see the bemused looks of those receiving the payment. After returning from buying the pool tiles, he got into a panic when he couldn’t find Genya’s purse. Having come across the purse  over the last 5 weeks, in the fridge, in the food cupboards, among the crockery, in the garden, under the sink etc. I was less than confident that he hadn’t left it at the tile place, which was an hours drive away. I was wrong after an hour and a half of stripping down the house and car, contacting the Tile seller and getting him to  check his yard and giving up. As it was now too late to cook (9pm),  I said we will go out and eat. For some reason as we left he put his hand in the large pot that I cooked a hot-pot in the night before and was going to cook another one that night (still unwashed) and I had placed on one of the shelves next to the cooker. It was there. Why? He had been visibly shook by losing the purse and promised there and then to always put it in the same drawer. A couple of days later it was his birthday and I bought him a wallet to keep in his pocket (he seemed pleased and promptly transferred his cards and money into it).

After returning from the restaurant around 11pm we decide to make a start on ripping down the kitchen ceiling. After changing into work clothes. To our surprise things went really well and the whole ceiling was down by 1am. The kitchen floor and work surfaces were covered in around 20cm of debris. After surveying the carnage we had just created, it was decided to clear up the following morning. I left David to lock up and retired to bed.  During morning coffee David needed to fetch Milen in the car and asked if I had seen the car keys. You guessed it.  He insisted he hadn’t left them on one of the work surface and after half an hour searching everywhere else, we eventually got down on our hands and knees and began working our way from one end of the kitchen to the other sifting each grain of rubble. Nearly an hour later and halfway along the floor we found them.

On the Sunday David and I eventually went and celebrated his birthdays at Casa Volley. We went early and got back by 7.45 pm as I was leaving the following day and we needed to be up at 1 am. We were in bed by 8 pm.

Journey back went like clockwork. Chauffeur  (David) to the airport woke up on time and we made good progress to Sofia. Check-in was just a walk through. Flight left on time and again I had an empty seat next to me (must have been the odour). Had an hours kip on the flight, read the in flight magazine and played Sudoku on my mobile. Walked through immigration onto the bus to the station. Waited 7 mins for the train, had breakfast on the journey (extortionate), Sue was working so had a taxi home (as it was cold and raining) and was in the house before 10am. At 10.30am I was in a very deep and hot bath (no evidence of concrete dust was found near the plughole). I opened a tin of Thai chicken and noodle soup followed by a cheese and Branston pickle sandwich drove around to Nan’s for coffee (she was fine) and read through all the paperwork that had arrived, but their was nothing important. Drove over to Charlotte’s for coffee, played with the boys and caught up with news (not much). I got back in time to make a fire and meet Sue back from school. Jamie came around for tea (steak pie, broad beans and potatoes, followed by tart and custard). Rang a friend to arrange the journey to today’s match then went to bed as I couldn’t stay awake (7.30pm) – out like a light until 7.15 am this morning when Sue got up to go to work.




Autumn Days

Posted in Uncategorized on Nov 5, 2012 by David Palmer
Family News: Sarah came home for half term and returned to Uni’ on Monday. Sue went with Sarah (who deputised for myself) to Kate Crawford’s 60th birthday party at the The Angel. It was an excellent ‘do’ by all accounts and they sat on Sean’s and Karen’s table, there was over 70 attended (must have cost a fortune!). The weather was terrible, heavy rain all day.
Charlotte went to see a friend Emma in Melton but when she took Lucas to school she wondered why no one was there. It was closed as it was a teacher’s day!
  Sue has been to see Nan regularly, and took her to the doctors for an eye scan on Friday, but she had got in a muddle as it wasn’t until January. The doctors were very good and even rang the hospital for her to try to sort it out. When they got back home Sue fished the letter out and discovered she had read it wrong.
Nan took Sarah out for a meal at the canal basin restaurant, Sarah enjoyed her meal but Nan didn’t like her fish and chips and the pudding wasn’t what she expected.
  Everyone went chestnut picking on Saturday and then roasted them on the fire. Photo: Chestnut roastingThey had hot dogs for tea and then went to the firework display at St. Joseph’s. PhotoIt was a cold night and they all got frozen when they got back and had to thaw out by the fire.
 Suraj hasn’t been well recently, he went to Kettering hospital on Saturday night and again yesterday with pains in his abdomen. They are not sure what it is, but  it is very sore and tender. Let’s hope it is just a bad curry.
Jamie is now between girlfriends and the other night gave himself a 5 kilo steak challenge (I haven’t heard the result).
The grandchildren enjoyed Trick or Treating on Halloween. They harvested quite a lot of goodies and were joined by Sarah.
PhotoPhoto: HaloweenPhoto: HaloweenPhoto: Haloween
Bulgarian News: Still working on the pool. We really did under-estimate the amount of work to be done! Luckily after a couple of days of rain we have had good weather, which means early starts and late finishes (when the sun goes down). The last 3 days have been quite hot and not conducive to heavy manual work. Banjo is still enjoying walking across freshly laid concrete or tiles and this evening he discovered that he could lay a paw trail along the grouting lines between the tiles. If he wasn’t  so adorable he would be in one of the many hotpots that we eat each night.  We went to the market again in Dryanovo on Saturday morning for a sharpener for the chains saws and another kilo of walnuts for mine and Banjo’s breakfast. We also bought quite a lot of vegetables for the pot.
Today, we had help from Milen, he cleaned tiles and then spotted David struggling with grouting the tiles and showed him the Bulgarian way. David wasn’t keen at first but it certainly was quicker, so they both set about the many hundreds of grouting lines (carefully watched by Banjo). I was laying tiles at the time, but had a wander over to see their handiwork. Not the tidiest of methods I have seen, but we do have lots of new definitions and I guess that the grouting will now fall into the category of  ‘fit for purpose’, only a grade lower than acceptable.
I booked my return flights and train ticket during the week. It is David’s birthday on Saturday and he asked if I would be here for it, so I shall be leaving on the 12th Nov.