Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Mother Nature Pays A Visit

So there we were having a nice lazy Sunday afternoon down in the cellar lounge. The dogs were outside, as were the cats apart from Elma the kitten. As she is not fully house trained yet it pays to keep an eye on her, as she has a habit of using the plant pots that we have brought in to survive over the winter. Just like a small child the time to worry is when she goes quiet, now she had been sat on the arm of Net's armchair but had hoped off. I hadn't heard her disappear up stairs, and I hadn't let her out, so she had to still be in the cellar. Sure enough when I turned round there she was eyeing up one of the big pot plants, but the palm frond was moving. Thinking that it was probably nothing more than a Praying Mantis that she had found I went to investigate. I got there in time to see a Snake's tail moving onto the next plant pot. As Net has a bit of a phobia about Snakes I suggested that she might wish to leave the cellar, but I didn't actually tell her why. In hindsight that might not have been a wise choice, because instead of catching the Snake I then had to explain what Elma and I had seen. Luckily it was only what the locals refer to as a Smok, so is totally harmless, and only about a foot and a half long. In so doing the Snake had disappeared in the corner of the room where the water meter is, which I had boxed in last year.

So with Net sat on the stairs directing proceedings Elma and I started to search the room for Hissing Sidney. As the water meter area was the last place that I had seen the Snake, I thought that the search had best start there. I carefully lifted the lid off of the box section, with Elma watching with great interest, to reveal nothing. That meant that there was a possibility that Sidney had either gone behind my CDs or behind the bookcase. So a good deal of poking and prodding about went on, before CDs and books came off of the shelves, and still no sign of the hisser. The water meter pit has never been properly finished and had a sand base, with a rough edge from where the cement screed floor was laid. So it was possible that it had disappeared under the floor. I did also find some holes between the stones in the wall where it also might have gone behind the CDs and books. Each time that one of the cats came in they were picked up and placed beside the water meter box. None of them showed the slightest bit of interest.

I decided that the cats could spend the night patrolling the cellar lounge, instead of their usual place in the upstairs lounge. My thinking being that maybe the snake would seek the warmth of the fire as the temperature dropped, the cats would then spot it and capture it. It sounded like a better idea than me waiting up all night with a torch. I even explained all of this to the cats when I got them in that evening, except for Mini Mog who refused to come in. So when we went up to bed there was SillyO in Net's armchair, Mr Cat on the settee and Albert and Elma curled up on the chair at the computer desk. Unfortunately when we woke up there were four cats happily camped on our bed. It was suggested that they should be placed on short rations for dereliction of duty.

I had to check the cellar for before Net would venture down there first thing in the morning. The cats hadn't left us any presents, but on the bright side they hadn't used the sand at the water meter box as a litter tray either. I moved the furniture about again and still no sign of Sidney. Unfortunately we had promised Yolanta that we would pick her up from the garage in Gorna where her car was having a winter service done, so my snake hunting activities would have to wait until we returned. On our return one again I was first down into the cellar, and still no sign of the slithery little whatnot. So the thought that it was under the floor somewhere seemed like quite a good call.

So this morning all of the furniture was moved, up ended, shook and anything else that we could think of. The CD shelves were moved away from the wall, books were taken off of shelves, and everywhere was once again thoroughly checked, including the plant pots. Still nothing, the only thing left to do was sort out the water  meter area. First I had to remove the sand, and get a good firm base. I didn't have any sand and cement left, so I mixed up my remaining tile adhesive. It seems to have done the trick, and the water meter area does look tidier. I have also filled the holes that I have found between the stones of the wall. Hopefully Sidney was in the wall and he can make his way outside, if not he is under the floor and there he shall stay. The cats have been down here this evening and once again have shown no interest in anything, apart from finding somewhere comfortable to curl up and go to sleep.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bulgarian Ramblings

Just in case anyone was wondering if I had dropped off the face of the Earth, I am back with yet another Blog for your 'enjoyment'. We have been fairly busy just recently, especially since we had the first snow, this proved to be a timely reminder to start winterising the house, So wood has been cut, split and stacked, chimney flues have been swept and the garden has been tidied. We have also been giving Jolanta, our neighbour, a helping hand too.

It hasn't all been work though, family have been over, I've managed to go to 3 football matches, Net has been on a couple of Ladies days, we have had a meet up with some members of the group in Veliko Turnovo (including Bulgarians, so no-one can accuse us of the group being exclusive even though they have tried), and we have been out walking in the countryside.

A group of like minded souls have got together and formed a walker's group, and we are known as The Balkan Ramblers. Each week we meet up at a given point and go traipsing off into the Bulgarian wilderness. Normally there seems to be about a dozen of us, and the ages are quite varied. The object is to get out and about whilst the weather is good, it won't be much longer and the snows will be back and we will see enough of the same four walls then. It is a nice bit of exercise, and a good way of socialising too.

Our first walk took us all the way through Emen gorge, to the village of Emen and back again. We did stop in the village for a coffee at the halfway point, and luckily some of us took money with us. It was during this pit stop that we christened ourselves The Balkan Ramblers. The walk from the lake to the village wasn't too bad, some of us tried to walk the Eco-trail, but that seems to have fallen into disrepair so wisely decided to try not venturing out onto the bridges that criss cross the gorge. Our trip back from the village was a bit more adventurous, as we wanted to see the waterfall. The going underfoot was quite slippery in places, so some ended up going downhill on their backsides.

The next walk was along the waters edge at Stamboliski Dam. As we all had to travel there it was decided that we would meet up at a coffee shop in Pavlikeni. Once again the weather held out for us, and although it was a cooler start the sun soon came out as we started our excursion. We even passed a fellow who had caught the biggest Pike that I have ever seen, it must have been nearly three feet long. Despite it being a vicious fish it was still a beautiful specimin, just a shame that it was going to end up on someone's dinner table.

As it is a Dam Lake the going was sloped all of the way round, so it was a good workout for the ankles. We did have a few rocks, boulders and fallen trees to clamber over, but apart from that the going was flatish. The lesson had been learned from the previous week and we had all bought our own lunches. So it was quite pleasant just sitting at a convenient spot, feeding ourselves whilst listening to the waves gently lapping at the shore line and the fishermen in their boats puttering around. One good thing about carrying your own lunch is that once you have eaten it then you have less to carry. I have to admit that even though these walks are largely carried out off the cuff everyone does seem to enjoy them.

Our latest walk was meant to take us from VT to the Preobajenie Monastery, I have passed the signpost for there many a time but had never visited it. The happy ramblers met up in the Yantra Hotel for a pre walk coffee, and then set off through the old town of VT. I didn't realise that we were meant to have transformed into Mountain Goats the previous evening, as we kept on going up and up. The morning had started as slightly foggy, and the wood smoke mixed in did cause some people some difficulty, or it might have been a bit of altitude sickness. It certainly gave me a different view of VT that I have never seen before. There was a surprising amount of building work going on up there, and we also passed a clay pigeon range that I never knew existed. I remember seeing a signpost outside of the hotel that indicated that the Monastery was 6km away, but we were going uphill and down dale, across cliff tops and through woods. I think that I can safely say that everyone felt slightly tired after this walk.
There is something quite satisfying about walking at this time of year, as we crunch through the autumn leaves that have fallen. It seems as though the snow that we had did cause some damage, as there were a few trees that had come down over the trail, but we were able to safely negotiate our way past them. A few more hills were crossed and we arrived onto a proper road, so we knew that our goal was within reach. Sure enough at the top of the road we found the Monastery. I'm glad that we went there as it looks to be under refurbishment, and it is good to see that some of the heritage and history are being preserved for future generations.