Saturday, 29 January 2011

Net's trip to the Hospital

Maybe I tempted fate by saying that we were continuing on the road to recovery, or more than likely Net tried overdoing things. Those who know her will understand what I mean, as she is not one to sit idle for too long. Since last night, her Asthma has been playing up, and her inhalers haven't provided any relief. My suggestion that she sit in the bathroom with the shower running, was completely ignored, as I thought that the steam might help. Lo and behold the facial sauna was out this morning, and Net was trying to see if steam would help!!!! Sometimes I do wonder, maybe I dreamt about suggesting the shower. Either way it didn't help, and being the weekend there would be no chance of Net seeing the Doctor. We could go and see the village Doctor in Strelets at his house, although as previously mentioned I would only use him in the direst of emergencies, or we could go to the Hospital in Gorna. Even had we seen the village Doctor, there would be a good chance that we would then have to go to a chemist, our closest being in either Dolna or Gorna. So it was decided that a trip to the hospital would probably be the better option.

So bundled up against the cold, I tied 2 of the dogs up (the escape artists) and got the car out from under the barn, Fenny was left on patrol as security and he could also run about to keep himself warm. Then I encountered the first problem, we had had a couple of warm days which had started to thaw the snow, then the night time temperatures had re frozen the slush into ice, so I had to fight to get the driveway gates open. Luckily, I had a trusty shovel handy so was able to chip away enough ice to open the gates wide enough to get the car through. The next problem was soon evident, when the tractors had been round ploughing the roads they had once again left us with a snow/ice ridge at the bottom of the drive. So it was another job for the trusty shovel and I. Route clear, dogs sorted out, car out and heater on we slowly set off down the icy lane. Remember me saying on facebook that I had spotted a gritter in the village? Well it had only done the main road through the village, and the side roads were untouched ice sheets. We only had to drive a few hundred yards to get to the main road, but it still took a while. Better safe rather than sorry, even with winter tyres fitted and 4 wheel drive selected.

The main road was a lot clearer than when I caught the bus during the week, so I opted to go the direct route, and not out of the village via the cemetery road. The road from the village and past the frozen lake wasn't too bad, but parts of Strelets were largely untouched, their main road being like an ice rink. Once through there the road surface dramatically improved, so it  wasn't too long and we were out on the proper main road and heading off towards Gorna. We vaguely knew where the hospital was located, as it had been pointed out to us a couple of years ago. So it was into Gorna and then head back out on the Lyaskovets road, and there on our right hand side was the hospital sign, right next to a no entry sign.. The next entry was pedestrians only, oh well, third time lucky. We ended up in a car park next to a building, with no indication about what it was for. Do we go in or not? There were footprints in the snow on the steps, so hopefully there would at least be someone there to at least point us in the right direction, Wrong, it was like the Marie Celeste in there, just closed door after closed door.

So back out into the cold, and walk further round the corner of the building. The pedestrian access path that we had noticed earlier led up to another set of steps. So up the stairs we went, through the doors past 2 coffee shops and into a dimly lit corridor. I noticed a sign that said something that looked like registration to my rudimentary Bulgarian, so we headed for there. Once again, not a soul around, back to the dimly lit corridor, and look around again. There was light at the end of the corridor, and once again another sign for registration. We were in luck, there were people there. Unfortunately they didn't speak a word of English and spoke far to quickly for me to understand any of their Bulgarian. Eventually I managed to explain that Net had problems with Asthma, and being the weekend no doctor, who had told us that in case of emergency to go to the hospital. This seemed to cause some form of understanding as we were waved back down the dimly lit corridor and told to turn left. Oh well in for a penny.

Taking their directions we ended up in a brighter corridor, and wandered down to the end where there was someone sat on a bench seat. No sign of anyone in any form of a uniform, so all we could do was wait. Eventually a woman wearing a stethoscope emerged from behind a closed door, and more rapid Bulgarian followed. Once again I tried to explain the problem, and it seemed to make sense, as she waved us to wait on the bench seat. By then the early morning cup of tea was working on Net, but luck was on our side as there was a loo close at hand. It might have been a 'Pharaoh's Head', but as Net said "when you've got to go you've got to go". At least it was clean. Back to waiting on the bench seat and another door opens, and there was a Doctor. He even looked like a Doctor, in his hospital greens armed with a stethoscope, and he spoke some English. Once again we explained about Net's Asthma and her cold and flu. Luckily Net had brought all of her medication with her, including the empty boxes, so he was able to see what had been prescribed. Whilst he was doing this Net was having her blood pressure taken, as it had seemed a bit lower than normal this morning. He listened to Net's chest and agreed that it was an asthma attack, and said something to someone who I can only assume was a Nurse. At least I hope so as she returned with a syringe, and told Net to lay down and to face the wall. I knew what Net was thinking, but luckily she was injected in the arm. Back out into the corridor and it was time for Net to have a blood test, which came back all clear. So after having been prodded and poked, and having allowed time for whatever it was that had been injected to work, the all clear was given. We asked how much we owed but were just waved away with a smile. I'm assuming that we were in the right bit of the hospital for accidents and emergencies, as while we were there an Ambulance had turned up, but we might not have been. The next time that Mum has to go to hospital it might be an idea if we accompany her, just to make sure. The hospital might have been old, and missing the odd light bulb, but it was clean and we couldn't fault the attention that was given to Net.

On getting back home we discovered that instead of being on guard, Fenny had got through the fence and had helped himself to the cat food. We are now suffering gas attacks, Net probably wishes that she still had breathing difficulties. I know that I wish I had no sense of smell!!!!!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Yesterday and the Bus Trip

Hopefully you will be pleased to know that we continue on our road of recovery. We woke up with more energy than we have had in the past few weeks, so it was decided that various little niggling jobs could be done as well as the normal bits and pieces. The 'highlight' was giving the fires their monthly clean, this also involved stripping down the flue pipes and cleaning them too. Luckily the sun was out and a nice bright blue sky, so I would be able to do it all outside. So wrapped up warmly and armed with my trusty flue brush I started on the fire in the upstairs lounge. A top tip is to have a bin bag handy, so that the base of the flue pipe can sit in it as you remove it from the chimney. Failure to do this can result in a shoe full of soot and tar if the flue gets slightly knocked when extracting it from the chimney. You can also get told off for not remembering the bag in the first place. Cleaning the flue is relatively simple, knocking the outside will shift most of the debris, the problem normally lays with separating the various lengths so that the insides can be swept with the flue brush. Then there is the joy of reassembling it all and sticking it back up the chimney and connecting it back onto the fire. Feeding it back up the chimney normally results in another deluge of soot and tar, so it is a bit of a messy job. You could see where I had been, as there were sooty footprints leading from the fireplace, through the kitchen and out of the back door. It makes a change from muddy paw prints though. Leaving the scene of my crime, I then repeated the process in the downstairs lounge. Once everything was thoroughly cleaned and reassembled I had more than a passing similarity to a chimney sweep. I was black from head to foot, but it was a job well worth doing as the fires draw nicely now.

I had enough time for a wash and brush up, and a quick coffee before heading off to the village bus stop. Normally we would drive into town, but with the snow and ice the bus, as it is longer and heavier, seems like the safer option. There are no bus time tables, so I had to try and remember from last winter. You have to make sure that you get to the stop in plenty of time, as if the bus is early and there's no one there it won't wait. At the bus stop, outside of 'Bridget Jones' Knicker shop', there is a bench in full sunlight, an ideal place to wait I thought, until I noticed that the snow thawing from the eaves was dripping straight onto the bench. Whilst waiting the bus came through on it's way to Vinograd, where it turns round and retraces its route into Gorna. This meant that I had another 15 to 20 minutes wait, but it was sunny and at least I knew that it was running. Sure enough the bus returned, and in my basic Bulgarian asked for a ticket to Gorna whilst handing over a 5 Leva note. The fare should have been 3.60, but neither of us had any small change so I was only charged 3 Leva. I think that the heater on the bus must have been jammed full on as it was like a sauna, and being bundled up like the Michelin man I was soon sweating like a Marine in a spelling test, but I had promised Net that I would keep my scarf up round my nose to avoid breathing in any germs. One good thing about being driven somewhere, rather than driving, is that you do get to see so much more. I was able to check out the road conditions and let Mum and Dad know as they were considering driving in the next day. The roads round the villages were still patchy with ice, but once the ridge road started to drop down to lower levels they became largely ice free.

After a largely uneventful trip, the bus arrived in Gorna, and I was able to do the most important thing and pay the M Tel bill, Again somewhere else with the heating stuck at full, so I needed a coffee to rehydrate myself. Since we have been a bit poorly we have been going through fruit like the clappers, so I had been given a 'small' shopping list. A quick trip round Kauflands, and then back to the bus station to wait for the trip home. A wonderful place to people watch, but it was bloody freezing in there. Even the sparrows were shivering, but I did manage to see some characters while I waited. The traditional drunk was there, mumbling and slurring at anyone who came within 10 feet, gypsies on the cadge for either money or cigarettes, various women laden with shopping bags and a Numpty with a Harlye Davison real look leather pvc jacket. I wonder if he thought it was the genuine article?

Having grown bored in the waiting room, I went outside to wait for the bus. There were 2 likely candidates, and they both started up at the same time. Would it be the bus with the permanent list or the one belching out diesel fumes everywhere? It was the latter of the two, and a free for all ensued as people jostled to get on the bus. Once I had managed to get a seat I was able to survey my surroundings, the driver was wedged firmly behind the steering wheel, he has probably missed one to many salads. It was a bit disconcerting to see pictures of saints on the driver's blinds, but probably explains his driving, and next to the no smoking sign there was an advert for Victory cigarettes. By now the diesel fumes were building up in the bus, so why bother about no smoking? The only bits of the bus showing little wear and tear were the overhead luggage racks, so at a guess they have never been used. In a cloud of diesel exhaust, and a grinding of gears the bus coughed and wheezed its way out of the bus station, and my seat shifted a wee bit as it was a bit loose on it's mountings. My seat wasn't the only one loose, as a lady's shopping was thrown all over the floor by her wonky seat.

It was difficult to see out of the windows, with the grime on the outside, the ice on the inside, and the dubious bits of cloth hung at them wafting backwards and forwards. Not fancying a faceful of the closest 'curtain' I tied it in a knot and tried to keep a safe distance from it. Luckily the smell of the diesel fumes would keep the smell from the press of bodies to a minimum, I can only hazard a guess at what it must be like in the height of summer. Whereas the bus into town was like a sauna, the bus home was like an Igloo, no chance of the ice on the windows melting so I had to content myself with trying to peer out of the grubby windscreen. The driver's eyesight must be much better than mine. Once we left the bus station at Draganovo the bus was largely empty, only a few hardy souls remained to go to the outlying villages. With a lurching and a grinding the bus turned off of the main road header off up towards the villages, sticking to the middle of the road and not seeming to care if anything came the other way. I'm sure that there must have been food at the bus's destination as unless a woman from the village had said something to the driver I don't think that he would have stopped to let us off.

Well that was yesterday's bus trip out of the way and reading back over this blog I can see why I don't make a habit of using the service.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Feeling more 'normal' today

Well here we are, and only a week to go and then we are into February already. As a lot of people will have noticed the snow has returned, I guess that we can't complain too much as the winter has been very mild so far. From the looks of things we won't be able to get out of the village this week, which is a bit annoying as Net has a Doctor's appointment on Wednesday. The tractors were out last night clearing the roads, but we ended up with more snow falling over night. The dogs seem to enjoy the snow, bounding around like things possessed and barking at the snow flakes as they fall. Two of the cats, Albert and Razzy, also enjoy the snow, as they pop up out of the snow and then chase each other, rolling over and over in it like cat shaped snowballs. Once they have tired themselves out, they retire in front of the fires. The cats are up in the top lounge, and the dogs are down in the cellar with us.

Yesterday was pretty much a non-event for me. I felt like death warmed up, running a temperature, glands up, joints aching, and a mouth like the sole of a Nagasaki bomb dodger's flip flop. I was asked "What are they like?", and by all accounts they are a bit like the bottom of a budgie's cage crossed with a Gorilla's armpit. I  could have said like the inside of a Sumo wrestler's loin cloth, but I know a lot read this blog in the morning and I didn't want to spoil your breakfasts. The only place that we have been to contract something like that would have been the Doctor's waiting room. that's the problem with those types of places, they are always full of ill people. Living in a very small village we don't have a lot of daily contact with people, so maybe our immune systems are not as resistant as they used to be. Luckily on our last trip into town we stocked up with anti-biotics and Coldrex. I'm sure that with all of these tablets I will probably rattle when I walk. So yesterday was spent mutually nurse maiding each other, and making sure that we both drank plenty of fluids. We used to boil a kettle on top of the fire, but Net had the good idea about using the coffee maker down in the cellar, so now we can have convenient hot water at either end of the house. Just by luck I had done a big stock up with logs for the fires the previous day, so we were able to spend the day in the warm without having to venture outside apart from feeding the animals. Thank heavens for the internet, and laptops, as we didn't feel cut off from humanity, and with the laptops we could do it all from the comfort of our sickbed. I have managed to catch up on the football goings on and have chatted with some Bulgarian friends on facebook. Thanks Магдалена and Елена! :o) Магдалена has kindly offered to meet us next time that we are in Gabrovo, so that will give us something to look forward to when the weather improves.

I've just had a thought, something that I try not to make a habit of, if I don't fancy driving or the roads still look iffy, I might have to get the bus into town so that I can pay the internet bill, at least that will be later in the week. Somethings we can manage without, but as bad as it is, the internet isn't one of them!!

Today I am feeling much more like my normal self, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not! Net is also slowly getting back to normal, and fussing over me like a mother hen. So far I have managed to get dressed, restock the log baskets, clear the paths, do the animals breakfasts and go round to the shop for bread, and it is only midday. Admittedly I am not doing anything too quickly, as there doesn't seem any point in rushing things just yet. Looking out of the window, I can see that it is still snowing so there will be more to clear tomorrow, and looking at the forecast it isn't going to thaw very quickly. The good news is that it will soon be Spring, and we are already making plans about what we will grow, and what we won't, and where it is all going to happen. Looking on the bright side, if we're going to be ill then this is the time of year to do it, as nothing much is happening gardenwise.

Well, I don't know about you all, but I feel the need for a coffee, so I had best end here. So until the next time take good care of yourselves, and remember coughs and sneezes spread diseases!!! :o)

Thursday, 20 January 2011

What to do when the lights go out

Hopefully none of you got too excited and overcome with emotion at the title of this latest blog. Honest, it's not as bad as it seems. I was only thinking last night, how lucky we have been with the lack of power cuts so far this winter. I have probably jinxed things now, and we will get a massive power outage until the spring, never the less I shall plough on. Now all of you sensible ones have probably got candles and torches situated at convenient points around your houses just waiting for such an eventuality, some like us might even have dual fuel cookers. But in these modern times how do you entertain yourselves? Just think, no lights, no TV, no radio, and worst of all no computer or internet.

Some of the best purchases that we have made, since being here, have been head torches from Popovo market. They give you light and as an added bonus they still leave your hands free, but depending on how long the power will be off how do you entertain yourselves? Last year I came up with a solution for Net and I.

Now some of you may know my background, and some may not, but for 24 years I served in the Royal Navy, and when you are stuck in the middle of the ocean you tended to devise means of entertainment. Stop giggling in the back, and yes that does mean you!!!

A very popular item of entertainment in messdecks and crew rooms was a game known as Uckers. To the uninitiated it might seem a bit like Ludo, but it is much more strategic than that. It is a game that can be played by 2 or 4 players, and 2 dice are used rather than just 1 as in Ludo. If 2 people are playing they control opposite colours (blue and red against yellow and green), but if 4 people play two teams are formed and team mates sit opposite each other and control their own respective colour. Rules do vary, but I have taught Net the advanced rules (or WAFU rules). The basic objective of the game is to get all of your pieces out, round the board in a clockwise direction, up the chute and home. Not only do you want to get your pieces home, you also want to prevent your opponent doing the same with theirs. This can be done by the use of blobs, which will prevent their progress. You can see one of the Uckers boards that we have made, using the top of one of our patio tables. It wasn't ideal bringing it in and out, so I have also made one on a flat board which is much easier to carry indoors. Before anyone asks the results haven't all been one sided, as Net has won quite a few games. No 8 piecings in the pen so far, or even any up boards, but we live in hope.

If anyone is interested in making their own Uckers game, here is how we used to do it in the Navy, so some of the slang might be a bit confusing

  • 1/4" or thicker marine ply approx 600mm square or a square pussers table
  • Same size of perspex to bolt or screw onto ply wood once painted.
  • Broom or Squeege handle, to make counters.
  • Two dice, can be made from whale bone, but go on splash out and buy two, if the dice are homemade, both teams must play with the same set.
  • Paint and Brushes
      1. Get the wood, (Tot of rum, pack of ciggies, ), from the Chippies store.
      2. Get the Perspex (Greenies shop)
      3. Beg borrow or tot for the paint and brushes. (From the Boatswains store)
      4. From the Wardroom cleaning locker, steal a broom or squeege, and remove the top section of the mess broom, to be diced into counters.
      5. Cut off 16 counters from the handles (usually about 1 cm thick
      6. Prime the plywood on both sides and then paint it in light grey or other neutral colour.
      7. Paint the playing area white.
      8. Draw each corner of the board with pencil. - Make sure there is adequete room for the counters to sit in the squares, with some space all around. (The size of your counters dictate the size of your board. The counters need to have square ends so that a 8 pieces in a mixy blob can stand firm to the violent rolling of the ship in any moderate seaway.
      9. Paint the colours of the shit shute and home bases Remember this is an Uckers Board, not a ludo (yukk) one- Green must always go opposite Yellow - Ludo boards have those two colours side by side. - Don't forget to colour the counters at the same time.
      10. With a fine black brush, paint in the lines for the squares, etc.
      11. Varnish the surface or cover it with perspex.
      12. If this is a serious 'uckers' board on the reverse paint in an honours scroll. Dont forget. If you are proud of it, sign and date the reverse.

Apologies to any ex-services reading this, but if anyone's curiosity has been piqued the rules of the game can be found at the following web site.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Net's Trip To the Doctors

Well yesterday's trip to the Doctors managed to take up a fair chunk of the day. After Net's wobbly head escapade of last week when she fell into the wardrobe, we thought it best that she go and get checked out. We have both been suffering with the flu since just after Christmas, and although the Coldrex and Amoxycilin seem to be working on me they didn't seem to be having the desired effect on Net. Now we do have a Doctor that holds a surgery once a week in the village, but his command of the English language is non-existent, so trying to make yourself understood becomes a pantomime when attempting to explain what the problem is.
Net has registered with a Doctor in Gorna now, and as she speaks some English it does make things a lot simpler. So after sorting the dogs out we set off into Gorna. One good thing is that if you feel ill you just go to the Doctor, none of this phoning up for an appointment and having to go through 20 questions with a receptionist, and then being told that you can't see the Doctor until a week next Tuesday. We managed to park quite close, which was a definite bonus. The Doctor's surgery is set in an old fashioned block, up flights of stairs, how the elderly and infirm manage to get up and down says a lot for their constitution. There is no real waiting room, just some old tatty bench seats in a draughty corridor at the top of the stairs. I have felt warmer on an open platform at a British railway station, no wonder everyone else was bundled up like the Michelin man. Then it was just a matter of waiting patiently for your turn to come around. Luckily we hadn't drunk much tea before we left home as even though there is a loo there, it's not one for the faint hearted. Yesterday must have been mainly for mother's and babies/children as there seemed to be plenty of them. Some had even been despatched to the loo with plastic cups, and when they opened the door this strange miasma wafted out, no wonder they keep it locked. One old lady in the corner smelt of wee, maybe by the time she had fought through the various layers it was too late, so we shuffled a bit further along the bench and tried to not breathe too deeply.
One good thing about having old ladies there, they don't like queue jumpers. A few tried it and got very short shrift and had to beat a hasty retreat to the back of the queue. Maybe a ticket system like at an ASDA deli counter wouldn't be such a bad idea, probably not necessary with the old lady brigade to police matters though. When it was our turn to go in, the old ladies pointed and made ushering gestures and we were through into the next bit where the initial consultation took place. It did look very basic in there, but still light years ahead of our village's facilities. It was a bit disconcerting as people kept coming in for the loo key and then returning it, patient confidentiality doesn't seem to be high on anyone's priority list. After Net had explained her symptoms it was then on into the examining room where she was prodded and poked. At least the door was closed this time as Net had to strip down all her top half  so that the Doctor could listen to her chest. The Doctor wanted to know when Net had last had a chest x-ray, and explained that there could be problems for asthma sufferers after flu and possible pneumonia. Not what we wanted to hear! The Doctor made a phone call and told us that we could get a chest x-ray in about 20 minutes when they returned from lunch. We asked where we had to go, thinking it was probably at the hospital or the other side of town, but were told to go back and wait outside and the Doctor would then show us. So back out into the draughty corridor and the tatty bench seats, by then I could no longer feel my feet and was in dire need of a coffee, not to drink but just to warm my hands up. True to her word 10 minutes later the Doctor ushered us further down the corridor and told us to wait while she disappeared into another room. Looking round I expected to see some indication of hazard signs denoting an x-ray department, all that there was was a peeling sheet of A4 on the door that РЕНТГЕН. Another lady ushered us in, and once again Net had to strip down to the waist. Poor Net was then unceremoniously thrust against this cold contraption and manipulated like a rag doll until the suitable 'artistic' pose was achieved. Then breathe in, hold it, hold it, and it was all over and Net could get dressed again. At least there was some heat in there, albeit not much, but better than the corridor. The x-ray lady told us to wait there and she would come back with our 'holiday snap'. I had only just paid for the x-ray (15 leva) and was holding it up to the light when the Doctor reappeared and took us back into the consulting room.
The good news was that there was nothing nasty on the x-ray, so she started writing out the prescription, explaining what each bit was for. Net mentioned that she couldn't take one thing so that was crossed out, and the antibiotics were changed too, and we were told that the Doctor wants to see Net again on Friday so we have to go through it all again. We forgot to pay for the consultation (it's only 2 Leva and I don't think we will skip the country over that), and will have to remember to pay on Friday, not that the Doctor said anything. Finally at half two we got out of the Doctor's having been there since just before 11, so it may seem basic when you look at it, but it is very very thorough.
As a side note when we got back to the village we stopped in at the magazin, as Todor and Reni do like to keep an eye on us. The village shop is a wonderful place to keep up with the goings on in the village, not that it is rumour control or the hub of all gossip. We were told that if we have any problems or emergencies to phone them day or night and they will get things sorted out. We did learn that they are getting 2 baby lambs, Anthony and Antonia, soon, one black and one white, but we couldn't work out whether they were going to end up on the dinner table or not. Whilst there, drinking our compulsory coffee, we had a phone call from Mum, so instead of going home from the magazin we had a slight detour and a cup of tea, while we let Mum and Dad know how Net got on.
It also seems that our favourite 'thieving, lying, stinking gypsy bar steward' had been caught doing a bit of night time thievery again. Hopefully, at his next 'guest appearance' at court he will get sentenced, and not just a smack on the wrist like last time. We do know that the Kmet wants him out of the village, but we are not holding our breath, but stranger things have happened. So watch this space for more breaking news..........    

Saturday, 8 January 2011

So much for the predicted harsh winter

So how has this first week of 2011 treated you all? The weather here in Paisii has been variable to say the least. We have had snow, freezing fog, but best of all today with glorious sunshine and temperatures of 15C. Back in September/October the weather forecasters had been predicting a harsh winter lasting six months. I, for one, am very pleased that they got that one wrong. There is still plenty of time for the big falls of snow to come, but the longer it takes the closer we get to Spring. So far this winter we have only had about 10 inches of snow, so the village tractors have largely been idle. They have been out and about a couple of times clearing the worst of the snow away, but then their large tyres compact the rest which turns to ice and makes getting about difficult. I have just returned from our local shop with fresh bread, and noticed that the road surface is starting to break through the ice in places. So if this thaw continues the roads should be clear come Monday. One thing I like about this time of year, with the thaw and freeze overnight, we do get icicles, something that I can only vaguely remember seeing back in the UK. The two days of freezing fog left the trees looking white and fuzzy, and when the breeze blew you could see ice crystals floating in the air, sparkling like tiny diamonds as they reflected the sunlight.

One of our first visitors, apart from the village children, was Nicolai the water man. He is a very quiet, unassuming man, but always ready to help and he does try to offer me advice about the garden. I just wish that I could understand more of what he says. He always reminds me of one of the Super Mario Brothers with his cap and moustache. He is quite particular with his work when he reads the meter, and before he enters the figures into his book he shows me his calculator and checks that I agree with his readings. I guess that that is one way of finding out if we have a water leak anywhere. In his spare time he also helps out the village Post Mistress, and acts as a fill in postman. As we live just round the corner from the Post Office, the routine seems to be that the post mistress will telephone us and let the phone ring four times if there is anything for us. If there is then we just pop round and pick it up, as happened when we got our 'Red Cross' parcel full of goodies from the UK, and a new photo of our youngest Grand-Daughter. While we are round there we will also check to see if there is any post for Mum and Dad, as that will save them having to come out in the cold.

On a sad note one of our English cats has died. Well she was actually killed by one of the dogs, we don't know exactly how it happened. I had just taken an armful of logs in from the wheelbarrow, and went to get another load when I saw her body in the drive with dog. It was heart breaking and I have never shouted at any of the dogs like I did then just then. She is now buried in the garden in one of her favourite sunning spots. Trying to dig frozen earth is no fun, but I managed it and it was more dignified for her. At least some people had the decency to offer their sympathies, whereas others were more concerned about the dog. Personally, I was all for having the dog put to sleep, but they were all punished and now we are very careful not to let any of the cats and dogs interact. That might not be the best way to go about things, but that is what has been decided. If there is any other re-occurrance then there will be a one way trip to the local vet, but we are hoping that it won't come down to that. Mother nature can be so beautiful on one hand but so cruel on the other.

On a brighter note, another Bulgarian tradition was reported on one of the forums. On January 6th an Eastern Orthodox priest throws a cross into the river. It is believed that the young man who retrieves it will be healthy throughout the coming year, as will all those hardy souls who dance in the icy waters with him. I am pleased to report that I am far to old for any of those shenanigans, and saw no sign of soggy, shivering young men in the village.

Just read that a 3.5 Earthquake has been registered 55km East of Stara Zagora with, luckily, no reported damage. Just another of the joys of living here, by all accounts we have had minor tremors round here, but I can't say that I have felt the earth move for me since being here.

Well soon going to be time for me to follow the football, so I had best sign off for now. Until next time, thank you for reading this far and keep yourselves warm.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Честита Нова Година

Well, here we are and it's the start of a New Year and our first blog of 2011. We hope that you are all well and not too hung over from partying last night as you ushered in the coming year. Last night was very quiet for us, we did have plans but being unwell put paid to those. Instead we stayed indoors, in front of the fire with big mugs of tea and coffee, and watched those hardy souls in Sofia celebrating. At the stroke of midnight fireworks were let off round the village, we could even hear fireworks from Vinograd and Strelets. With the village being in a bit of a dip, it was echoing round the hills which set of the village dogs. Not wanting to be left out our three wanted to go out and join in, the cats were much more sensible, and opted for staying indoors curled up in front of a nice warm fire.
New Year's Day and bright blue skies are here to greet us, the snow and ice is melting (just in time for the next lot). I just wish that the village children were not such early risers, the doorbell has been ringing and ringing since daft o'clock. At least we knew what to expect, unlike our first year here, to those who don't know it is vaguely similar too Halloween but without the tricks. I have included an article explaining the proceedings that I found on one of my language courses;

January 1st is also Vasílyovden (St. Basil’s Day), when survakári - groups of young
boys (age 4-5 to 10-12), go from home to home of close relatives and neighbours,
reciting New Year’s wishes and tapping everyone on the back with their richly
decorated cornel twigs (surváchka). The traditional survachka (with many regional
variants) is decorated with wool, strings of popcorn, fried fruit, small bread rings,
coins, etc threaded on a red string. These days stall vendors on streets everywhere
sell many commercially produced and not so traditional-looking surváchki, which
parents buy for the kids. In the cities children don’t go anymore from house to house,
but instead tap the backs of relatives, friends and neighbours visiting the house on
the first day of the New Year.
The traditional rhyme known by all Bulgarian children goes like this:
Сурва, сурва година,
Весела година,
Голям клас на нива,
Червена ябълка в градина,
Жълт мамул на леса,
Голям грозд на лоза,
Пълна къща с деца,
Пълна кесия с пари.
Живо, здраво догодина,
Догодина, до амина!
(Literary means: Beat, beat the year, a merry year, a big ear of corn in the field, a red
apple in the orchard, a yellow ear of maize on the stalk, a big bunch of grapes in the
vineyard, a house full of children, a purse full of money. May we live healthy and
happy until next year, until next year and forever – Amen!)

The children in the village don't go in for any of these mass produced wands sold in towns, it's the traditional decorated twigs here. The doorbell has been quiet for an hour now, so maybe they have finished for this year. We have brought wood in for the fires, finished the housework and sorted out the leak from under the kitchen sink, so it's now time to dose ourselves up with more Coldrex, sort out something to eat and have the kettle on constantly.

Well we hope that 2011 is a happy and healthy year for one and all