Archive for October, 2013

What storm?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2013 by David Palmer

Having not written a blog since travelling back from Bulgaria through a horrendous storm, it is a British storm that has prompted me to put finger to keyboard again. And the fact that Sue has spent the last 2 days in bed with a tummy and chest bug, plus I got bored spending yet another morning painting the garage ceiling. Still in Bulgaski work mode I foolishly thought I would brighten up the garage by painting the ceiling. A very big mistake. So far 7 mornings and many tins of paint have been soaked up into the rafters and though today the last one was finished, they could do with a depressing second coat (sanity will prevent this) and I have yet to ‘do’ the ceiling in between (which is even thirstier). They will be done before 2015!!!!

Normality has returned to the Palmer house-hold. Curry nights are being held again (to the delight of Charlotte)and it is nice to feel once again that warm feeling working its way through your system from a nice British Biryani! You just know that all will be well the following morning.

With Nan’s house now sold I have been busy contacting various people companies etc. notifying them of change of ownership and that all Direct Debits and bill payments will stop. She even got a £5.12 refund from an energy company! You used to pay no rates on an empty property, but our present government changed that to 50% and then followed that up with 150% if it is empty for over 2 years. Very nice of them. Nan is getting quite involved in the life of Huntingdon Gardens. She and Isabel frequently go out for lunches, she now attends the coffee mornings for a good gossip session and of course there is Wednesday Bingo. She appears to be fully booked up on trips out and is presently planning Christmas.

We have started our Christmas planning. There is ‘Snow White’ at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering and Boxing Day greyhound racing already sorted. Sue and I have also booked to see ‘Bellowhead’ in Leicester with Jim and Brigitte.

I managed to get a round of golf in with Andy on a very windy day. The course was quite water-logged and there were few other fool-hardy souls venturing out to chase the little ball. We should have joined them (where ever they were), it was not a memorable round.I have also been down to the Rugby Club to watch a couple of first team games. They are playing in a higher league this season and are doing reasonably well, though I do feel there are a few coaching/selection issues that need to be addressed.

My Fiesta went in for its first MOT, I also booked it in for a service (as a treat). They kept it all day and now it has a nice new stamp in its log book. Jamie is considering changing his car. He was reminded on how thirsty his present one is with fuel when the Petrol station cashier pointed out that he appears to spend more time there than she does. I wonder what he will get?

Charlotte’s hen’s are now laying and produce on average a couple of eggs a day. Though they have been consumed mostly in Rothwell, Sue and I were treated to one each last week and they did taste very good. Chick, chick, chicken lay a little egg for me!

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STORM. What storm? All week we have been regaled with warnings from the Met’ Office regarding impending doom. I personally blame some friends form Italy, who at the same time decided to visit the UK. It is more than a co-incidence that on each of their previous visits the country has been blanketed with one type of foul weather or another. Having heeded the warnings I removed the garden swinging chairs, rolled up the pool cover, dragged the trampoline against the hedge and moved the pool chemical barrels to a safe place. As predicted, the wind began to blow, the rain began to fall and the radio upped its warnings. Sue, already bedridden through a stomach bug, watched ‘Strictly’ followed by ‘XFactor’ and then snuggled down defensively in bed cuddling a reassuring hot water bottle. Manning the watchtower throughout the night I first heard the wind begin to howl, the rain rattle heavier on the window and then …………….. phfffffffft! Despite the many rants on radio 4 of Armageddon being wrought on soft, evil southerners; trees down, flooded homes, electricity supply failures it seems we virtuous Harborians were spared. Day light showed that the river had risen (a little) and that the fallen leaves were all now in tight little tidy piles. Some say you have to wait to get your reward in heaven, some of us obviously do not.
However, all was not hunky-dory. I had been looking forward to a good blow! My early morning bike ride through the fresh Leicestershire countryside increased my disappointment as I passed no broken branches, toppled trees or even small heaps of kindling twigs! The plan to spot the winters supply of wood burner fuel on my daily, bikely jaunt and then return in car with newly sharpened chain-saw, like the predicted holocaust, did not happen. We shall have to burn the children.

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Sarah has been busy with her studies and already completed her first essay a month ahead of schedule, I know because I had to read it. It was about the fascinating subject of alley-gates. She has had Lee to visit a few times, though it appears his primary function is to fend off starvation and feed her. They did have a nice time celebrating Halloween in Sheffield (it must come earlier, up-north).
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Jamie visited Coventry Stock-car Racing Circuit recently, though the car in the photograph he put on Facebook did look remarkably like his own. They must be very busy now at his work as the company has taken on another employee to help Jamie. He was starting to work very long hours and he certainly needed some support.
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Sofia

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 by David Palmer

David returned from Gabrovo, reporting that the car was very sick and he didn’t think that he would make it back. Crassy’s garage couldn’t get the part until the following day so that prompted David to struggle into Dryanovo and enquire at the garage there. They would have the part by 2pm. He was going to return and have the part fitted. He had been reassured 100% that it was where the problem lay. Exploring the concept that the car might not get fixed I got him to ring the local taxi firm and ascertain whether they could do an airport run tonight. They could. We would inform them later this afternoon if needed. Until 1.30pm he helped me make a rockery for Genya and then drove the car to its appointment. With fingers crossed I finished setting the stones, added some pot plants for effect then took Banjo for a short walk.

Returning, I fixed the Sony Viao in the lounge downstairs that had lost its internet connection and uploaded some photos on the past few days blogs. I then took the opportunity to have a power nap. When I awoke David had still not arrived back. Worrying. Eventually at 4pm he arrived. The part had been fitted all contacts cleaned and the car was running better but the engine management light still glowed and it still felt lumpy. He had been giving it a bit of a workout and he thought it might be ok. After discussing this idea, it was thought that it wasn’t worth the risk and the taxi was booked.

With a load off both our shoulders we both perked up and we took Banjo for an enjoyable walk through woods that we hadn’t yet set foot or paw in.

Around 7pm we drove into Dryanovo for our ‘last supper’. The car died on us. What a good call the taxi turned out to be! It started again after a short wait and we made it to the bar. On the journey back to Ritya, the car failed us again, as if to say, “I told you so.”

David chose to watch a film. I chose to lay on the bed with Banjo and have another sleep. The taxi was booked for 11.30pm, I woke up at 11pm to a thunderstorm. Saying farewell to David and Banjo I walked down the lane into the village centre, sheltered under a barn roof and prepared to wait. It promptly arrived, the driver didn’t speak English, a quiet journey I thought, wrong!

In short, we had torrential rain and hurricane winds for the 3 hour journey. We spun on leaves entering the main Varna to Sofia motorway, doing a complete 360 and by some skill kept going in the right direction. We had to constantly dodge fallen trees and branches scattered across the road. Passing several unfortunate motorists with hazard lights flashing and warning triangles set in the carriageway standing by their vehicles looking forlorn and soaked. We met few vehicles on route, just 2 lorries and 1 car (not counting those waiting or assistance) until we reached the outskirts of Sofia and then it appeared the city was deserted. I guess Bulgarian drivers do know their weather and heed any warnings.

I arrived at the airport with the heavens still lashing down. I found a seat quite easily even though it was 2am and passed the time waiting for the check-in desk to open by writing this blog. I was flying Wizzair and needn’t have queued at check-in, but I couldn’t print my e-ticket at David’s as his printer ink had dried up and had to collect it there (for a fee: 8 levs). After collecting my boarding pass I sat in departure for a couple of hours before boarding the plane, people watching. I suspected I was going to be the only Brit n the plane.

The flight took off on time (5.30am) and is probably one of the roughest rides I have ever had, the storms raging across Bulgaria seemed to be shared with the rest of Europe. Well I guess they are in the EEC now. I did manage to sleep most of the flight away. Landing on time, my passage through customs was quick, then picking up my train ticket that I had also booked in Ritya I boarded the shuttle bus. Within 7 minutes of arriving at the station I was on the train continuing the blog.

Sue picked me up from the station and after catching up with all the family news and a plate of English baked bean on toast inside me, the worries of the journey were gone. I just have to check to see if my car is running?

Ritya 30 (The Return?)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2013 by David Palmer

Thunderstorms forecast, but never appeared. We did have a small amount during the night, but nothing significant (according to David’s coffee cup left on the garden wall, 2 days ago). It was a fine sunny day.

I had decided to attempt a new circular route for Banjo’s walk and set off down the lane towards Dryanovo with a bouncy, tail wagging mutt sniffing every blade of shrivelled grass behind me. Kicking off to the right through the second stand of trees past the (very dry) cornfield, we followed an old logging track. Around a quarter of a mile it fizzled out into a small glade where in the past the loggers had made their base for that week, long ago. We know followed animal tracks towards our goal, the little overgrown field next to David’s place. After a while we lost site of the house of Ritya and I navigated using the outline of the surrounding mountains, then I lost that support as we dipped down into ravine after ravine.

The sun was now getting quite hot and the ups and downs of our trek, as it had now degenerated into, had become quite tiresome as the trees and bushes became thicker and thicker. We stopped awhile in a small glade for a chat and a wuff and then carried on. Breaking through some bushes we came across a swampy area where two clefts in the ground met, as it lay in the direction of our journey’s end we pressed on, soon to be stopped by a pond surrounded by thousands of hoof prints. We had found the place where the deer drink. Banjo decided to cool off by plunging into the rather stagnant and muddy water, he loved I don’t think David would.

With some difficulty we managed to circumnavigate the pool and again followed animal treks in our now supposed direction. Banjo had started to take the lead and I trusted his nose. Crossing one more ravine which I hoped I recognised from previous years we were stopped by a thicket of thorn bushes. There ensued a one way conversation. I wanted to cut right where the barbs seemed less fierce and also towards where I judged home to be. He wanted to go left following a low trail under the thorns towards a stand of trees. It was a stand-off. I made to go my way, he didn’t move! I called him, he just stared, determinedly. “You had better be F…..ing right,” I said and made in his direction. He wagged his tail and set off. Fifteen metres further on we hit the track that was our original aim. He was lucky!
Ten minutes later we were walking through the new reconditioned gateway and a much needed cup of coffee and bowl of water.

After a quick change of clothes from the ragged, thorn scraped tatters which I had arrived back with, David and I (less Banjo, fast asleep on the bed) set off for a much needed appointment at a garage in Gabrovo.

On arrival David was assured that the car would be hooked up to the technology and the fault identified. The journey there had been quite ‘lumpy’ so I was feeling grateful. It would take an hour, o we had a walk into the city/town. We visited a plumbers merchant to enquire about taps, a car shop to enquire about the cost of a new coil-set that David thought might be the problem and Lidl to buy dog food. On return to the garage we were told the diagnostics had not shown up anything and on trying the car David thought it felt smoother. They had tightened the leads said the mechanic. Perked up by this news we decided to have lunch at the Bulgarian Heritage Village and visit the little workshops there. That was where we spent the afternoon. A lovely place and well worth a visit if ever in the area. Despite the time of year there were quite a few other tourists, though most seemed to be Russian and little interested in the history and more occupied with texting.

On the way back over the mountain to Ritya our little car got lumpier and lumpier until finally it gave up. Brilliant. Despite starting again after a few minutes wait, I was not reassured that it had never let David down. I have been telling him for the last 3 weeks that the car is getting progressively worse and he should put it in a garage to get it sorted. Tomorrow, I fly from Sofia (maybe).

Later that evening we drove into Dryanovo to eat. On the way there the car gave up again. After starting, it was decided fill up with gas and petrol in readiness for tomorrows 3 hour, midnight drive over mountains higher than the Shipka Pass to the aeroport. As David filled up he informed me that his rear number plate light cluster had fallen out and that the bulb was not working, plus one of the side-lights. The police were stopping cars further down the road (he had spotted hem) and he was going to get some bulbs in the garage and put them in now. After selotaping the cluster to the boot door I was further depressed when he informed me that the garage didn’t sell bulbs. As we left the garage with David planning a route that wouldn’t take him past the police check, luckily they had moved on, so plan B came into operation and we drove to another garage across town and purchased the bulbs. I think they worked, no doubt the police would confirm this if we came across them.

We watched Bulgaria v Czech Republic on the TV in the bar with three ‘butch’ locals attempting to wade through a 2kg pizza and several glasses of wine. Bulgaria lost 1:0 and look like missing out on Rio. Back in Ritya, after another shutdown for the car, I followed the England v Poland match on the BBC website. It read like an exciting match, but difficult to watch for for the faithful. I guess 2:0 was the right result and should ensure that there will be no immigrants hanging from lamp posts back in Sleaford and Boston, or for that matter Harborough.

Through necessity (hopefully) I am continuing this blog into today as I should be back in the UK the next time I switch on my tablet. David woke early and set off for Gabrovo. I think he is planning to buy the part he thinks is causing the problem and fit it back here. I hope he puts the car into Crassy’s garage and get them to fit, fix or keep and lend him a courtesy car. Assuming of course that the car makes it to Gabrovo or indeed that is where he is going and doesn’t change his mind in the meantime. He was thinking of replacing the fuel filter, but as I pointed out that he has been running the car on gas for most of the time that is not the problem as it appears during the use of both fuels. I wasn’t reassured that he said that it needed changing anyway. That sounded desperate.

After this mornings shortish walk with Banjo I have set about making a rockery for Genya. She requested that it be put on the list and we never got around to it. If I am still here when she returns in two weeks time, it just might please her enough to continue to house and feed me.

As for now, I toil breaking rocks and wait. We shall see.

Ritya 29

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15, 2013 by David Palmer

A murky but dry morning. I persuaded David to accompany Banjo on our morning walk. We used our favourite route, and though we came across no wildlife other than woodpeckers we were treated to an appearance by the sun and as a consequence some great views over the valley. Arriving back in Ritya we came across Mark toiling, barrowing a delivery of logs into his woodstore. We gave him a hand for half an hour and we took over the barrowing duties while he stacked the logs neatly in tiered rows.

The sun was in a good mood this morning and heightened our spirits enough to contemplate a trip out. Milen arrived back from Dryanovo and selling his old washing machine for scrap. He had been in contact with Crassy (another part-time Ritya resident) who owns a Subaru garage in Gabrovo and had arranged for David’s poorly car to be seen the following day. It was decided to shower and drive to Gabrovo, see Crassy and continue on to the Shipka Pass to see a space ship. And that’s what we did.

We followed the old route to Gabrovo over the mountains. It had been closed for a long time and had only been re-opened this year. There was only just enough room to fit a car down what was once quite a wide road, the bushes had encroached onto the carriage way and had soon knocked the wing mirrors into their protective position. The rest of the 8.5 miles over the mountain was to the sound of branches and twigs machine-gunning along the side of the car. We met no other vehicles.

We stopped briefly at Crassy’s garage in Gabrovo to confirm that the car did have an appointment with a mechanic (it was feeling quite poorly now and I guess not looking forward to the Shipka Pass inclines). Resuming our journey we headed in what I can only say was upwards. Luckily, they had now built a by-pass for this once only possible route over the mountains to the south of Bulgaria and in the past would have been just one long line of struggling lorries attempting the crossing. We met few other cars and many, now empty and derelict roadside cafes. The views through the forest displaying its stunning autumn colours begged for a photo or two, but I didn’t dare ask David to stop as I feared our struggling car wouldn’t care to start again after being given a rest.

We stopped for salad and beer at the top, choosing the first of a small line of restaurants that still managed to stay in business on the back of independent tourists and the odd tourist bus. The spot is quite important to Bulgarians as it is here where they repulsed the invading Turks (some time in their past) and they had built quite a spectacular and imposing monument. After feeding our stomachs we were back in the car and heading upwards again on the last section to the Monument itself. On arrival we parked alongside a few cars and with Banjo all excited climbed the long staircase to the top. The combination of thin air and our earlier wood-barrowing activities quite exhausted us. I can’t think of any other reason for the heavy panting and jelly legs, as our little dog seemed ok. After a lot of photos and scrambling around to see the magnificent sights all around us, David pointed to another, higher mountain on the horizon with a large building perched on its summit. That’s where we are going next.

The journey again was a lonely one through a beautiful forest that I am sure I had seen in catalogues of picture wall-paper, designed for elegant and sophisticated city dweller apartments (as seen in spy films etc.)

When we broke clear of the forest we emerged onto a little alpine meadow below what can only be described as the summit of a mountain with a huge flying saucer sitting on it. We were the only people there. Parking the car in front of what at one time must have been a very impressive plaza with an equally impressive and huge statue of some metalled fists and lit torch, we prepared ourselves for what looked like a challenging slog up the path to the top. We were not disappointed!!!!!!!!
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We had released Banjo from his lead and unhindered by this mornings log lifting venture he bounded up the track. Every 100m or so as David and I stopped to take breath I could see him through sweat fogged eyes sitting patiently a further 100m ahead with a look in the eyes that shouted, well come on!

Remarkably, we managed to reach the top in 2013, pausing briefly to catch the few wisps of oxygen that were available at that fearsome height I photographed the views before turning the lens on the intergalactic vehicle itself. As imposing and huge as it seemed below, close up it was massive but derelict. It had been where the Bulgarian Communist Party faithful would entertain their fellow Eastern Bloc dignitaries and impress them. It would have. Even in its dilapidated state as it is today you can't help but feel awed and insignificant beside it. The hang-over from the communist era has left it unloved, vandalised and forgotten. A shame, it would make a superb hotel.

From up there we saw the occasional car drive by on the little road below, none stopping to marvel at the sight on the mountain, then all of a sudden a man appeared. He looked like a hardened mountaineer with all the proper gear (none of your flashy designer stuff, but stuff that was made for a purpose and worked). He watched us for a while, probably gauged that we were foreign tourists and then checked his map, nodded and then carried on with his journey. He looked as fresh as Banjo!

The journey down was just as tiring as that up. It would have been so easy to have attempted to run and lose a few teeth and a metre or so of flesh in the trying. Tempted by Banjo's effortless sprinting back and forth we resisted all the way to the car.
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As we were getting into the car another vehicle stopped and asked if we could speak English. I was surprised as they were obviously German, so why not ask Sprecken Ze Deutch? They wanted to know if you could drive to the spaceship. We said yes, but didn’t know where the road up to it began and that WE (English winners of WW1, WW2 and the 1966 World Cup) had climbed up to it. They parked, got out an array of cameras and made as if to climb it also (Yeah, we were there first!) We drove away silently chanting “4: 2, 4:2, 4:2).

The journey off the mountain was just as pleasant as that up it, but without the worry that our little car would stop and die. Prior to passing through Gabrovo we visited a monastery on top of some very high cliffs. Significant because it is where the invading Turks threw the local Bulgarians over the edge, probably in an effort to see whether they could fly or not. A very picturesque little church was built on the edge to commemorate the Turkish experimentation. As I couldn’t read the Bulgarian explanation on the information boards , my interpretation is a best guess.
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We dropped Banjo off in Ritya for a much needed sleep and David and I travelled on into Dryanovo and our favourite bar to eat. One episode of ‘Spartacus’ and it was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Ritya 28

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2013 by David Palmer

Woke early to a miserable, murky day. It had rained in the night and the nice pile of dry, cut logs piled up outside the wood-store were wet! Never trust a Bulgarian weather forecast site, they speak with forked tongue! As it appeared to threaten more rain and we couldn’t see much beyond the garden walls our trip to the mountains was cancelled. In fact it didn’t rain at all during the day, but we never saw the sun and it wasn’t until late afternoon we got a glimpse of the cliffs across the valley.

Banjo didn’t get his long morning walk as the grass was wet and I feared that he would probably drown with the accumulation of drops of moisture as he pushed his way through the various meadows on route. He was disappointed but I made up for the lack of exercise by throwing the frisbee and mooing cow toy around the garden for him to fetch. He never tires of this, but I do (quite quickly).

First task of the morning was to move the woodpile into the wood-store to prevent it getting any wetter. That done, we dug up a sapling that Genya had planted earlier in the year and had given up the ghost, disposing of it on the woodpile. Another young tree was on the list to be dug up and moved to another location, but I was sceptical of this on several grounds, the main one being getting it out of the ground with sufficient root ball as to give it some chance of surviving. I found a chair and sat back and watched David dig around the sapling, I fetched him a long metal pole to lever it from the round. After a lot of heaving to no avail and one bent pole, I informed him that it had a tap root. After explaining what that was, he decided to replace the soil and have a coffee with me. Refreshed, we decided that as Genya wanted the tree moved because it encroached onto the path, we would prune it instead. Fifteen minutes later, the multi-stemmed plant was reduced to one, and looking a little pathetic, but as I assured David, it now had lots of potential. We left it at that.

We then moved onto pruning other vegetation in the garden. Two very pretty, twisted willows had been planted next to each other. They were originally bought as dwarf species but as both were now over 5m tall (not bad for one years growth) the lesson to be learnt is that even Bulgarian garden centres will tell a lie to sell a plant. They are very impressive, but now that there is no way in which to reduce their size without killing them or remove them to another location it was decided that the slightly smaller one was for the chop. Ten minutes later with a ‘seeing to’ with the chain saw we had some more wood.

The apple trees then got a less severe pruning with secateurs and the shrubs (mostly lavender) also got a trim.
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Lunch was taken: cheesy sausage rolls, garlic bread and the vicious spicy potato wedges we had tried a few weeks ago and had decided to leave in the freezer for ever. Even our after lunch coffee tasted of chili and continued to sting our lips. I surmised that such a food item would be un-sellable in the UK as they were just too ridiculously spicy. David thought they would be very popular, if sold under the name “Ridiculously Spicy Wedges”, he has a point, I would buy them!

The afternoon was spent levelling the border by the wall and placing plotchas (large, flat, heavy stones that Bulgarians put on their roof) between plants to prevent the weeds appearing (it won’t work). We had a brief visit by Milen, but as usual he never stays long when there is hard work around.

Without seeing the sun all day, late in the afternoon we called it a day. Probably due to being wedgied earlier, neither of us felt like anything to eat, though later on in the evening I made some salty Bulgarian packet soup and much to our relief it was quite bland. Indulging myself, I watched four episodes of “Spaertacus” before having a Facebook conversation about “Downton Abbey” with Sarah and Charlotte and then to bed.

Ritya 27

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2013 by David Palmer

While I took Banjo for his walk (same route as yesterday, but minus any deer), David set about cleaning the kitchen. Mindful, probably, that the evening meal wasn’t going to happen if the surfaces on which to prepare food weren’t cleared, the cooking utensils scraped of left over food and we had crockery and cutlery to eat off. The contract is: I prepare and cook it, he clears up and washes the pots afterwards. In past years we have HAD to ‘eat out’ as there has been nowhere in the house suitable or hygienic enough to consider taking food out of the fridge or larder. This year has been quite different as all the work done has been outside and we have rarely ventured upstairs to scatter any constructional debri. And, he has mostly kept on top of the cleaning, even hoovering up kerlinka! I suspect this unusual and fastidious approach to cleanliness is having an adverse effect on his digestive system, unfamiliar with food not liberally laced with cement dust, sawdust and plaster, his alimentary canal has given up. Obviously deeming that food, which is no challenge to break down, is not worth the effort. After last weeks successful sorte into the Ruhre Valley, it looks like Bomber Command will soon be planning another mission.

It was another hot day and our work took us in a new direction. Last year, my last task on the last day was to fell one walnut tree and three plum trees. We had chopped up, logged and barrowed the walnut to the woodstore, but not the plums. This was our task for the day. Pulling the fallen trees from the undergrowth that now covered and strangled them was hardwork and required further cutting and lots of heaving. Eventually, after quite a few stops for a refreshing drink of brown stuff we had all three in the yard. Skipping lunch we set about chopping them into logs, the small branches went through the chop saw, but the larger, meatier ones went through the large professional log cutter in the barn. The sections of tree trunk were split by David’s impressive 8 tonne log splitter and then fed through the cutter. By sunset we were done and admiring a large pile of cut wood ready for the fire.

We had shower in preparation for tomorrows proposed outing to the mountains to see a mountain.

The evening meal was a fine dish of pasta with smoked sausage and two types of cheese (the only ones available in Bulgaria) cooked in a tomato sauce and tossed with apple cider. A side dish of fresh garden salad didn’t happen as last weeks frost put paid to that and the following desert also failed to appear as I don’t eat desert. Most of the pasta disappeared from the serving bowl and that which did not ended up in the dog.

The film that night was from the earlyn 90’s and very long, it must have been close to midnight before the pillow was pressed.

Ritya 26

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12, 2013 by David Palmer

Woke to the company of several more dead kerlinkas scattered on the duvet. Hoping the strange taste in my mouth wasn’t insect protein I washed it away with a nice honey coffee and took Banjo for his longest walk yet. Up the village, past the cemetery, across the meadow to the dirt track we had discovered several days earlier, but this time instead of turning up hill to admire the views we headed down.
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The track wound down through some trees and into another dry grassy meadow, the walking was easy for Banjo as his little legs found it easy on the dry mud imprints of the logging lorry tyre tracks. In the centre of the meadow I picked him up so that he could view the scene denied to him because of genetics. After several minutes of mouth open, head whipping stares at things that I personally failed to see the significance of, I put him down and we carried on. I was to repeat this procedure several more times during our trek.
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Breaking through another small stand of trees we came across a small valley that I recognised from previous years. Across on the other side, around 100m away, stood two astonished adult male deer. From his lowly position Banjo was unaware of what I was witnessing and was puzzled why I had suddenly stopped. I slowly unslung my camera, switched it on, raised it to my eyes, let it quickly focus on the scene to see the two magnificent beasts sprinting up the hill and away. Pressing the shutter button to capture the shot, nothing happened! It was set to ‘Smart Mode’! That is the mode for idiots like me who can’t be bothered to adjust the myriad of settings available to take the perfect picture and leave it to the software to sample the light, the distance etc. etc. etc. This takes time. By the time the green box around my quarry illuminated they were away on the horizon, under a tree looking back at me. I pressed the button, heard the simulated click of artificial shutter and yet again I had missed the National Geographic shot of the year.
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Carrying on with our trek, which had now got considerably harder for Banjo who was now bounding along through the increasingly tougher vegetation. A quarter of a mile or so (wish I had brought my GPS) the track turned into the forest and back towards Ritya and once again our route became easier. Though I had narrowly missed the company of the larger inhabitants of the locality, now that we were under the canopy its much smaller insect citizens were all too pleased to keep me company. After fruitless wafting them away for an annoying distance (Banjo didn’t appear to be pestered by them at all) I broke off a switch from a young oak tree and fought back. It worked well until I stopped the swishing, and then they were back. Presently, we exited the forest into the meadow not far from David’s. The insects didn’t follow us into the sunlight, but I kept my little oak, just in case. On passing through the now re-modelled gate, David was up a ladder involved in his favourite pastime, turning orange by grinding tiles.
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The rest of the day was spent by David on his gate roof and I with secateurs pruning the roses and and fir trees that were in dire need of a bit of training. We both took our time and passed the day leisurely. We even had time for a couple of sit downs to take on a refreshing brown liquid and half way through the afternoon broke for a power nap.

That evening we had a much needed shower and before we ate in the bar I made skype calls to Sarah and Sue to catch up on news. Later, too tired to watch a film it was an early bedtime.