Monday, 17 December 2012

Winter's Back

At least we made it through November before the snows arrived this year. Even though we haven't received a huge amount of snow yet, it has proved to be totally different to any other winter that we have experienced since moving here. Once again the normal warnings have been trotted out, about how this is expected to be the coldest winter since records began. I do tend to take these things with a pinch of salt. By and large there is enough of a problem trying to predict what tomorrow's weather will bring, never mind a whole season. Bearing in mind we are mid way through the month we have had sunny days with bright blue skies, rain and drizzle, snow, sleet and hail. Just for good measure we have also had some freezing fog, probably because it couldn't be fitted in anywhere else.

We started off with a scattering of snow showers, which really weren't amounting to anything much, but it was enough to start pitching on the ground. The village just carried on much the same as normal, but then overnight we had a larger than normal load of snow which fell. On top of this there were further snow showers the following day. In the village here they seem to wait until the snow has finished before they get the tractors out to plough the roads and lanes. As we were getting snow showers off and on, none of the roads and lanes have been cleared. So this has meant that the village has slowly ground to a halt. We did have a few days without snow, and the sun came out and everything glistened and looked very festive. The down side to this was that the snow was melting, and the temperatures at night have been falling below zero. So what was once nice looking snow was rapidly becoming treacherous ice. Still no signs of any snow or ice clearance activities in the village.

Just out of interest I did get the village bus into town last week. The last time that I used this was last winter, for some reason the lunchtime bus that I caught used to turn round at Vinograd, but it turned in our village this time. Maybe the road out that way was just too bad. I have to admit that here in Paisii and our neighbouring village of Strelets the road conditions had a lot to be desired. This didn't improve all the way down the ridge road until round about the old hunting lodge. It was almost as though someone had thrown a switch when the bus got to the main road, as the roads were totally clear. In Gorna itself it was difficult to find any evidence that there had been any snow at all. Is it any wonder that I often refer to our village as Ice Station Zebra.

By far the worst thing that we have had to face so far has been the freezing fog and the overnight drizzle. This gave everything a nice glazed look, but every path and road was like a skating rink. Even the cats and dogs were slipping and sliding everywhere, even our gravel driveway was just one sheet of very slippery ice. It was as though someone had polished everything to such a high shine it was nigh on impossible to walk on. There was no way that I was even going to contemplate driving anywhere in those conditions. The dogs and cats are also very reluctant to go out in it, and as soon as they have finished outside they make a bee line indoors and head for the closest fire. Mind you I can't say that I blame them too much. Net has very kindly shared the virus that she has been suffering with, so I'm not feeling 100% either. There are certain jobs that do need doing outside, so I end up looking like the Michelin Man as I go about them.

At the moment the thermometers have not dropped too far down the scale, a couple of times we have woken up to -7C. There is still plenty of winter left to go though, and at the moment the daytime temperatures are often hovering at about the 0 mark. Once again it gives the ExPat community something to talk about, who has snow and who doesn't. It is surprising that weather conditions can vary so much between villages, even neighbouring ones. This time of year does also lead to a lot of missed celebrations. We were meant to be at a friend's birthday celebration yesterday, and tonight we are having to miss the Ambassador's carol concert in VT. Not only do we have to pay attention to the existing weather conditions, but it is also prudent to keep an eye on the time too. The temperatures start freezing in the village at about 4pm, so ideally we normally try to be home before then.

Well this has been another year of blogs, and once again I would like to thank you all for taking the time and effort to read them. Net and I would like to wish you and your families a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, 30 November 2012

November Ends

So we come to the end of November, and still no sign of the dreaded snow word. The closest that we have come to snow has been to wake up to a few frosts in the morning. Today is a real surprise, I have checked my thermometers outside and it is 21C, and this isn't even in the sun. We now have a full line of washing out drying, even the breeze yesterday morning had a warm feel to it. In one way we did make up for it last night, as we had a wonderful thunderstorm and the rain did come down like stair rods. One thing that we do get at this time of year is a fair bit of fog, but fortunately this has normally burnt off by mid morning.

As is usual at this time of year we have had to do certain things to get ready for the onset of winter. Wood for the fires has been cut and stacked, we have been up in the attic checking for damaged tiles and any possible leaks. While we were up there we have also laid out even more of the rolls of insulation. We have also been down to Yolanta's and given a hand there too. All of the petchka's and their associated pipework have been cleaned. To some it might seem as if this is being carried out far too early, but last year we had snow on the ground in October, other years we have managed to get up to Christmas morning before the snow has arrived. So no year is the same as another, as it does pay to get yourselves sorted out early rather than rush things. Our winter preparations are nearly complete now, the freezers are full, the cupboards are full, we have a healthy stock pile of animal food, we have even managed to get elasticated crampon type things that will slip on over shoes and let us walk round a lot easier. One of the last things left to get on my list  is a replacement snow shovel as I managed to kill mine last winter.

We have also helped some very good friends do various bits and pieces to their home too. It is surprising what can be achieved if people pitch in and help each other. These lovely people now not only have a wood store, but I feel sure that it can double up as a nuclear bunker should the need arise. It even took the weight of two of us up on the roof, so I don't imagine that the weight of snow will cause too many problems.

Despite these preparations we have still managed to get out and walk round the village in the sunshine. It was quite pleasant doing this as you end up in places that you can't get to in a car. For example we managed to walk all of the way round a lake on the outskirts of the village. The only downside was the amount of rubbish that we found just dumped there. The worst of it being that it can only have come from  the villagers themselves, as this lake is largely hidden. Sometimes they fail to see just what they are ruining. Maybe in time they will learn, but in the meantime they might follow our example and take their rubbish home with them, hopefully this won't be too difficult for them to understand otherwise there will be nothing left for future generations.

When we went on one of our walks we did meet a couple of Bulgarians from a neighbouring village who were out mushrooming. It just goes to prove that a lot of the villages are interconnected by small tracks and trails, and not just by roads. One thing that I did spot on one of our walks, was something that I didn't even see very often back in the UK. At the top of a tall tree was a ball of mistletoe. I can't remember if I have seen sprigs of mistletoe sold on Bulgarian markets, so I can not comment about whether it holds the same position in winter lore as in the UK. Even if it is not the case then it is an alternate source of food for the birds. I am pleased to report that there has been no repetition of last year's visitor from the plant pots, but we have asked the cats to keep an eye out just in case.

Sometimes it does seem hard to believe that all of this will soon be under a coating of snow. If we are lucky the winter will not be as prolonged as the previous one, or that the temperature will plummet quite so far. Whatever happens we will be prepared for whatever happens, and if I am lucky I might not be interviewed by  any odd TV news team that might be about this time round.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Maybe Autumn Has Arrived Now

Now here we are mid way through October and it has got much more Autumnal. Even though the colours are mainly just greens and golds at the moment. When the wind blows through the trees there are sudden flurries of falling leaves, as they clatter their way to the ground. There is the normal battle of trying to keep the leaves raked up, and as you go around the village there are plenty of mounds of smouldering leaves. The wood lorries have been doing their rounds and delivering people's winter firewood. Here we get the wood in metre lengths, and it is up to us to get it cut and split. My chain saw has decided that now would be a good time to pack up, so we have had one of the locals in to saw the wood up into cheeses for us. I am quite happy splitting it, there seems to be something quite satisfying, and therapeutic, about log splitting. Even in the depths of winter I find it good exercise to split a few logs. I have quite a nice pile of split logs growing, and as I fill the log baskets up I intend to split some more to replace those used.

Our neighbour Dencho seems to have got a bit carried away pruning some Walnut trees. I thought that they were protected, but maybe pruning them is ok, and you have to obtain permission to actually cut one down. Most of them we haven't had a problem with, but one of them, even he has previously told us, stands on our land. Not only that but when he 'trimmed' it the branch damaged the corner of our barn. I eventually managed to catch up with him and pointed this out, but this was met with the traditional Bulgarian shrug of the shoulders. The next day his son was in the field cutting the branches up, I pointed out the problem and the damage to the barn, again I got the shoulder shrug. I wrote out my points of concern, and then used Google translate (which I realise isn't wonderful) and then showed it to Dencho's son. Once again the shoulders were shrugged. Even though it was a Saturday me and my piece of paper went round to the Kmet's house. I don't know what she said or did, but half an hour later Dencho's son is knocking on the gate with his mobile. He had got a friend to translate for him, he said that the roof of the barn would be fixed, and that our walnut tree causes too much shade in the field where they want to grow fruit trees. I explained that was all well and good but if the tree is ours then shouldn't we have been consulted first. I would even have given a hand. He tried telling me the tree was his, but thanks to the sketch the tree is actually within our boundaries. I pointed out that as a foreign national I had to form a company to buy the land on which my house sits, so therefore anything on the land is a company asset.

Anyway Dencho and his son have now got a nice clear field, surrounded to the South and East by Walnut trees that look like they have come out of a Dr Seuss book. We have both got some firewood from the tree branches, and the barn roof has been repaired. So much of this could have been sorted out over a coffee before the chain saw massacre took place. Hopefully we will not suffer too much with the natural windbreak no longer being there, I am sure that we will find out soon enough. We have fared ok with the first rains in I don't know how long, and hopefully we will do the same when the snow arrives. This time last year we had already received our first snowfall.
Like everyone else in the village there are certain tasks that have to be carried out, otherwise the winter will catch us on the hop. It's silly things like getting up on the roof and checking for damaged tiles, and replacing them. The chimneys and flue pipes also need to be swept, and any damaged piece of flue replaced. Whenever I do this job I always seem to end up looking like an extra from the Black and White Minstrel Show. I must be showing my age being able to remember things like that. The garden also has to be sorted out, with a lot of the old bits and pieces removed, various bits lifted for storing over winter, and other bits. I always find that it is better to just do as I am told, otherwise I would be lifting weeds for over wintering.

It is still a nice time of year, and the countryside is constantly changing. The daytime temperatures are still quite good, and we haven't woken up to frosts yet. We have had a couple of foggy mornings where the fields have not emerged from the murk until nearly lunchtime. You can still hear the steady chug and wheeze of tractors as they work the fields, and even though you can't see them the roosters have been in fine voice. The only downside to this time of year is that it always comes before the winter. If we are lucky it will be better than the last one. People are already forecasting another harsh winter, I can't see how they can manage this, as each year the winters have been different. So at the moment no one can really say how severe our fifth winter is going to be, or even how long it will last. Maybe we will be lucky and have a little snow, and plenty of sunny days. It would be nice but somehow I doubt it.  

Monday, 24 September 2012

Independence Day Wrestling

For those who are regular readers of our blog, you might remember that this time last year we were invited to attend the wrestling in the village of Parvomaytsi. Net and I enjoyed ourselves there, and luckily a friend of ours Victor remembered this and invited us both to attend again this year. We didn't want to keep it to ourselves, so in turn we also invited Barb and Dave. In the lead up to the Saturday we were getting rather concerned as it was bucketing down with rain, fortunately it did dry out on the Friday and so we were confident that the wrestling would be going ahead. We got there ahead of most of the other people so we sorted out somewhere that we would have a clear unobstructed view.

We even had enough time to move tables as it did get a wee bit chilly sitting in the shade. Barb and Dave turned up in plenty of time, so we were able to sort out drinks and nibbles. They had these fried fish things, fortunately for me they also had chips. For anyone who has not experienced Bulgarian style wrestling, you are missing out on a treat. It is nothing at all like the Saturday afternoon wrestling that I used to watch with my Nan. It is all done to 'musical' accompaniment, I can't really imagine the likes of Big daddy and Giant Haystacks wrestling to the squeal of bagpipes, and the beat of a drum and an accordion being drowned out by both of them. It was remarked upon that they all seemed to be playing different tunes.

There was wrestling for all age and weight categories, and the best of it was that it was all carried out by people with big beaming smiles on their faces. There is definitely something that other sports can learn about sportsmanship. There was no animosity at all, the crowd were openly drinking and urging the wrestlers on. It was an occasion for all of the family, but there was not one scrap of drink fuelled loutish behaviour. Everyone was just concentrating on the wrestling. It was more like the wrestling in the Olympics than Nan's Saturday afternoon bouts, and seemed to be scored for throws and pins.

The wrestlers were definitely agile, and in some of the bouts is seemed as though some competitors were trying to get the better of an eel. Barb was getting quite enthusiastic about the various bouts, and the locals seemed to enjoy the idea of Barb enjoying herself. I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed my Saturday afternoon sat in the sunshine, watching this sporting spectacle unfolding in front of us. It did feel nice being included like that, and I think that we were the only foreigners there. Even the squealing of the bagpipes seemed to fade as the hubbub rose as people discussed the various techniques being utilised in the ring.

There are much worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, and I even had my camera there to capture some of it. As you can see I found a way to change the images from colour to black and white. For some reason I am enjoying black and white images at the moment, and thought that I would share some with you. I am just hoping that Viktor will also remember to remind us about the wrestling next year if it is on, it really is that enjoyable. Once the bagpipes had faded away into the background it was all even more enjoyable. So if anyone ever invites you to go and watch some wrestling I can highly recommend that you attend. Before I forget I had best let you know the prize that they were all fighting over, it was a sheep.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

As We Go Into September

Well we are now nearly midway through September, and even though the days are still sunny, the evening temperatures are definitely dropping. During the day we are still facing temperatures in the 30s, but at night we are down to about 15C. That might sound warm to those still in the UK but because we have got so used to the temperatures in the midst of the summer, it does feel quite nippy of a night time.

The trees are starting to take on an autumnal hue, now whether this is due to the time of year or that they have had so little water through the summer is anyone's guess. Whatever the cause there are now starting to be drifts of leaves at the road side. I have noticed the days are getting shorter too, we left Gorna in daylight yesterday, but it was dark by the time we got home. There didn't even seem to be any real twilight, it was light and then it wasn't. It even seemed to catch a lot of the wildlife out too.

So the summer seems to be losing its grip on the country, the summer Olympics, and Paralympics, are now finished for another four years. The football seasons have kicked off again, in both the UK and over here. Farmers are busy in their fields, and quite often you get stuck behind a lorry, carrying grain or wood, as it drives round the back lanes. Well it seems to be lorries or farm vehicles at the moment. The trees all seem quite laden with fruit ad nuts at the moment. It might have taken nearly 4 years but I have finally managed to pick, and eat, a peach from one of the trees in our garden.

The fruit trees about the village will soon be battered by the local gypsies, as they try to gather up as much fruit as they can. It wouldn't be so bad if it was for their own consumption but they sell it on for a pittance. It is the same with the walnuts. If ever you see the locals hands at this time of year, you would think that they have all been doing oil changes on the village tractors, but they have been shelling the walnuts. We have already been approached about the nuts in the trees surrounding our house.

The winter fodder for the animals is also being collected up and put into storage ready for the winter. At least the weather is that much cooler so at least you can get out and about and do things. We have learnt to start to adopt a siege type mentality round about this time of year. Down at the fruit and vegetable market as things come into season the price drops, so we stock up and freeze a lot. At least this means that we do have access to fruit and veg when we get snowed in up on top of our hill. Some things like the basic bread, eggs and milk we can get round at the local magazin, other things like pet food we can't. So we will shortly be doubling up on certain grocery items. It might sound a bit early to be doing things, but winter doesn't always give you advance warning before its arrival.

Our wood pile has been drying out since this time last year, and has now been cut up into cheeses. This means that come the winter while Net is indoors doing the housework, I am getting some exercise splitting logs for the fires. I think that the animals are already eyeing up their spots in front of the fires. It does seem to be worthwhile doing a winter job a week at this time of year, at least everything isn't going to be such a rush when you don't need it to be.

So soon we will be able to look forward to the smell of wood smoke on the evening air. If we get any rain then we will always get mist and fog up on the hill. So soon it will be a case of putting the shorts and t-shirts away for another year, and digging out the warmer clothes.

Before I forget I would like to welcome John, who has just started to follow these Blogs. A pleasure to have you here with us all. Once again thank you all for taking the time to read these Blogs, please feel free to pass the link on to any friends who you feel might like to read them. The more the merrier :o)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Mindya Rock Fest 2012

This has been a busy weekend musically, in Veliko Turnovo there was another Moto Rock Fest, but at the same time in Mindya there was also their Rock Fest. As we are possibly the same distance from the two the choice was ours. We decided on Mindya, mainly for the reason that we went there last year, and we both thought that it was brilliant. This year didn't disappoint either, but we went on the Friday this time and not the Saturday. Maybe next year we will take in both days, but it was the thought of driving there in this heat that was a bit off putting this year.

For those that have never been to Mindya, it is a village that lies to the South East of Veliko Turnovo. The times that I have been there it has always struck me that it is quite a bustling village. There certainly seems to be a certain amount of civic pride in this village. The kerb stones are painted, as are the bases of the lamp posts, and I couldn't see any sign of litter. Even at the start of the Rock Fest the Kmet made a speech welcoming everyone to the village and hoping that everyone would enjoy themselves. We were then treated to the ladies village choir. For some it might not be rock and roll, but they deserve as much time on the stage as anyone else, besides which they had probably all been busy getting the village ready in the lead up to the festival, it also shows that it really is for everyone. Even though there is a Police presence there at the festival they don't actually have anything to really do.

 As I have previously mentioned the Rock Fest is enjoyed by everyone, and age is certainly not a barrier to any enjoyment. There were certainly plenty of young children, some in pushchairs, enjoying the music. There were also plenty of ageing men with their hair tied back in a pony tail. Hopefully that will be one look that I never try and imitate, despite someone trying to convince me otherwise. We had arranged to meet people there, but with one thing or another Barb and Dave were the only ones who actually made it. Considering they had never been before they must have been following some excellent directions, as even though they arrived well over an hour after us they had managed to park directly behind us.
The bands were what everyone had come to see, and on Friday they didn't disappoint. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and should anyone wonder if the next one would be worth going to I would say that judging by the two times that we have been most definitely. As foreigners, the groups might not be exactly household names for us, but they are enthusiastic about their music and this is a great venue for them to perform in front of sizeable crowds. that is one thing about the Mindya Rock Fest, you don't actually notice the numbers swelling. One minute it seems quite empty and the next someone has just bumped into you, at least we were not all wedged in like sardines.

You also don't seem to notice the time either. At one point we were convinced that it must have been about 9pm, in actual fact it turned out to be about 7.30. It did start to feel less sticky once a slight breeze had sprung up, and at least it did waft some of the cooking smells away from us. I am convinced that someone, somewhere there was cooking fish, not that I looked too keenly for it.

There was an interesting mix of music, the majority of the UK/US music being familiar, but there was also some Bulgarian and what sounded like German music being performed as well. The sound engineers certainly had their work cut out for themselves with so many different bands performing, and they would each have had different levels. Even the music that was being played between the bands was enjoyable, I even heard The Knack's "My Sharonna" at one point. One thing that I did notice was that members from different bands were also enjoying what the performing band were doing. So there didn't seem to be any petty jealousies, which certainly makes a pleasant change to the UK and stupid rivalries. I'm not sure who it was, but I think that it was Nana and the Gang who covered part of Pink Floyd's The Wall, for me that was one of the highlights of the evening.

 It would be wrong to try and say which was the best band of the evening, as music is all about individual taste. You either like something or you don't. What can be safely said is that all that went to the festival on Friday, be they members of a band, or Joe Public, enjoyed themselves. Some people in the UK might find it hard to believe but this Festival was free. There was no trouble that we saw, and yes there were people drinking. 
Maybe this is something that the UK can learn from? One thing we did notice as we drove home was the Police were starting to set up a breathalyser stop just as you left the village to join the main road. The young policeman who flagged us down did seem a bit confused as we were in a right hand drive. We were asked if we had been drinking alcohol, to which we replied no and we were just waved on. just goes to prove that sometimes you can have a great night out without drinking anything stronger than Pepsi Twist.

If the Rock Fest is on again next year we intend going, and who knows we might even end up taking in both days. We would like to say a very big thank you to the organisers, the bands, the Kmet and the villagers of Mindya, that was an excellent Friday night.


August Has Been A Bit Warm

With any luck today should be the last day of these scorching temperatures. This might sound a bit strange for those reading this blog in the UK. However, for those of us out here in Bulgaria it makes perfect sense. It seems as though we have been battling these temperatures for about three months now, but in reality it will prove to be shorter. We have had the occasional respite from this weather, but not many. As with a lot of Southern Europe there have been various brush fires cropping up, and once these get hold are very difficult to put out. They have even halted HGVs from using the roads during the heat of the day, as they have just been trashing them. Maybe it is something to do with the way that roads are constructed here. Talking of which there is a big road repair programme going on at the moment, we have noticed that the road between Strelets and us has been repaired, also the road through Strelets itself has been patched. Here in Paisii we are still waiting, they might have got round to us by the winter but I am not holding out too much hope. The garden is quite knackered now, as plants and vegetables have succumbed to the heat. You can only water it so much, maybe the ground has heated up so much that the roots have ended up being partially boiled when I have watered. We are still surviving without air conditioning, we have some ceiling fans and some oscillating fans, but our main area of comfort is our cellar lounge. As this is largely underground it does stay nice and cool.

The idea of long sunny days might sound wonderful, but it can get a little bit repetitive. The ground is so dry and cracked that it will take more than a couple of days rain rain to sort out. I do enjoy the sunshine and it doesn't really cause too many problems if you are sensible. We are trying to do the same as the rest of the village when tackling outside jobs, they either get done first thing in the morning or as the heat is going out of the day in the late afternoon. Even if we have to go and get some shopping we are now going into town later in the day. If you do venture in during the day you will quite often find that it resembles a ghost town from an old western. Even the stray dogs disappear as they try to find some shade, the good news for them is that with the number of public drinking fountains there is always enough water for them to drink.

Mentioning which we have also noticed that the water level in one of our local lakes has nearly got down to last year's low level already. It is not unusual to see a whole herd of cows wallowing in the waters there, the only down side to that is we have a sneaking suspicion that this lake forms the bulk of the two village's water supplies. I hope that Nikolai has enough chemicals to see us through the rest of the summer. People are already preparing for the winter weather though, as they get their stocks of winter firewood in. Even my chain saw is in having an annual service done on it, and then in slow time I will be cutting up the logs ready.

The dogs have taken to digging small hollows to snuggle down in, and then when it gets a bit warmer they move up under the barns and into the shade. About half an hour after we have gone in and down to the cellar we will hear the click click click of dog claws on wooden floors. That will be Fenny as he has taught himself to open the gates and door. If he hasn't been put back outside after about half an hour Sirius will also come and join us. The only ones who don't seem overly concerned about the heat are the cats, but they will have found somewhere nice and cool to rest up in during the day. Sometimes it is a bit of a worry with the cats being so independent, as just recently the hunters have been out trying to get a Wolf that has appeared round the village. You know that you are out in the middle of nowhere when you get to see a lot of the local wildlife, our highlight so far has been a pair of wild boar, typically neither of us had a camera handy.

Sometimes you can't help but go out, and on these times you try and get as much done as possible. We have now sourced a different venue for next year's It's A Knockout games. Well we did say that it wasn't going to be a one off event, but an ongoing project. We have also been to the printers to see about getting a calendar made for next year, all proceeds are going to BinkyAid. While I remember next year's fund raising is going to be used to help the Yambol area. If anyone would like their area considered then please get in touch with a committee member on the BinkyAid website.

Looking at the stats for this blog I notice that it has been accessed over 5000 times, so I would like to say a very big thank you to all who have taken the time and trouble to read our ramblings.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Day Of The Races

The Saturday dawned bright and clear, I know this because I was awake at daft o'clock still trying to figure out what had been forgotten. To no avail, but it did have at least one benefit. I was able to get in the bathroom first, not a bad result when you consider that I could have been at the back of the queue. Then it was time to play tea boy, once everyone had been sorted out we all headed off to the campsite, via a shop as Iskra's father wanted to get some water. When we got to the shop he decided that he didn't want any water after all, but we were still ahead of our mental schedule.

Once we had arrived at the campsite we had enough time for a quick coffee, before sorting out the team and the marshal packs. We also had to put the finishing touches to some of the games and adjust some of the others. For instance at the archery, the pins would not hold the balloons to the target boss so the game there had to be rejigged slightly. Fortunately the problems that were encountered on the day were fairly minor. At 9 in the morning it was meant to be time to brief the team captains and the marshals, eventually they were shepherded into place and the briefing were carried out and packs were issued. Of the twelve teams promised, eleven turned up to compete, the only ones who failed to show were Team Vinograd who had withdrawn the previous day. The mayor of Dragizhevo formally opened the games by saying a few words and cutting the ribbon. Once the speeches were over it was over to Bobby martin who introduced the teams and then they were away to their first events. The morning all went like clockwork with each team turning up to where they were meant to be, when they were meant to be there.

The sun continued to climb high in the sky, and the temperatures were rising all of the time, so the pool events were looking more and more inviting. The teams were staggered for their lunches, the theory being that this would help Nick and Nicky's kitchen staff. Hopefully it worked to a certain extent, but people did get fed and the teams managed to appear at their next events. After lunch a few problems cropped up, mainly caused by marshals just going home and not actually telling anyone, so the events in the afternoon were a bit more chaotic. This was also when the TV crews chose to turn up and start filming, and the newspapers wanted interviews. As the various photographs, that have been posted round the internet, show there were plenty of big daft grins plastered on people's faces.

Come five o'clock it was all over, even if we hadn't managed anything else we had got ExPats and Bulgarians working and competing together, and from that point alone the games were an outstanding success. The feedback that was passed on immediately after the games was that they had been an incredible success. Some teams were more interested than others in the final placings, and there were three different trophies up for grabs, which would go to the top three teams. The trophies were kindly donated by Trust Global radio, McNamara's Irish Bar and the VT Times. It all seemed to work out quite well, it was a team of Bulgarian youngsters, from a local Salsa club who came first who came first. A mixed team of Bulgarians and ExPats came second, and an ExPat team who came third. Once the trophies had been given out it was time for the evenings festivities to commence. Along with the raffle there was also the karaoke. People will be glad to hear that I didn't sing, as I can't carry a tune, not even in a bucket. Everyone did seem to enjoy themselves, and I think that I crawled into bed at nearly 2 in the morning. I was also up before 6 tidying up the archery and slingshot ranges. Just in case anyone wonders what Net and I were doing on the day, Net was trying to take charge of the marshals, and myself? Well I was competing. The team that I was part of came third as we were called the VT Camp Crusaders the trophy that we won is now being kept out at the campsite, but I do get to keep my third place medal.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Run Up to It's A Knockout

Maybe some of you have been keeping an eye on the calendar, and will be aware that the It's A Knockout was held at the VT camp site this weekend just gone. I have decided to blog it in two parts, the lead up to the event, and the event itself. I don't think that I have ever spoken to the press quite so much as I have in recent weeks. Not that I have been the only one, as can be seen here it also happened to Net and Nicky. Although as they say any publicity is better than no publicity. Besides speaking to the newspapers, I was also invited to chat with Bobby Martin on Trust Global Radio. As many have said previously it is lucky that I have a face for radio. The first time I was a little nervous, but managed to get through it all unscathed. Probably largely down to Bobby though.

There have been several planning meetings throughout the year, and as time progressed more people have been invited to join. It does seem strange looking back on things that this all grew from a friendly quiz challenge with the Condor Club down near Nova Zagora. Not only have there been planning meetings but also some fund raisers, mainly because we were starting off with no equipment. Games also had to be devised, and built, alongside rules being drawn up. It was quite difficult trying to sort out the logistics of it all, we didn't know how many teams we could expect, and by the same token we did not really know just how many events we ought to consider.

Nick and Nicky out at the campsite very kindly said that we could use there as the venue. So that was probably the biggest concern sorted out, to be quite honest I don't think that this project would have worked without their willingness. Although they are probably fed up with the sight of us. Tomorrow will seem rather strange when we go there for the craft club, and I am not wandering about trying to work out which game will go where. We had to come up with a shortlist of games, and also try to figure out where they ought to be held so that they didn't interfere with anything else. It was quite surprising where some of the ideas were coming from, but they were often adapted to fit into another part of a game. In the end we decided to go for 10 games, and each one would have to be tried out to make sure that they would work.

We decided that the time to test the games would be the weekend before the big day. This would give us enough time to change things around if necessary, and also to source any more equipment that might have been needed. It was also used to get various marshals used to the games themselves and to highlight any particular problems that might arise. It did prove very beneficial on several different counts, it highlighted the dangers of shooting, so that was ruled out quite quickly. This meant that we had to come up with something else to take its place, but luckily it was the only game that we had to remove. A couple of the others had to be slightly adjusted, but all in all a very worthwhile exercise. Just so there could be no arguments about teams having a sneak trial, a couple of teams of village children and some students were used. Once we found out what worked and what didn't we sat round a discussed how they could be changed or adapted. It did help having some new heads available to give things a fresh approach.

When everything had been decided upon, it was then just a case of deciding what was going to be taking place where, and also who would be doing so when. This might sound easier than it actually was, the location for the games themselves was quite simple once a basic plan had been drawn up. The difficult thing was trying to get 12 teams through all 10 games roughly on time. Eventually a timetable was roughly worked out. So everyone would know where they were meant to be and when, we began to make up packs of information. There were packs for teams, and slightly different ones for the marshals.

On the Friday evening as the teams began to arrive various bits and pieces of the games were being assembled. I don't know about anyone else but it had seemed to have gone smoothly, probably too smoothly for my liking. I kept on having the niggling thought at the back of my mind that we had either forgotten or overlooked something. With friends staying over we didn't get to sleep too early, and because I couldn't shake the niggling doubt from my mind I was awake the next morning at 4. It didn't do any good as I still couldn't work out what I might have forgotten, and by then it was too late really.