Friday, 31 May 2013

Water, Water Everywhere

My apologies to those who have missed me recently but we have been helping a friend settle into her home. At times there have been eight of us over there cleaning away, so there has been plenty of water sloshing about there. The good news is that now it not only looks cleaner, but it smells cleaner too. There is much to be said for many hands making light work, and when you are helping friends out no one minds rolling up their sleeves and pitching in. So as you can imagine this has led to mopping, scrubbing and mopping again.

Our next escapade with water has involved the weather.  There have been the usual thunderstorms, they might be slightly later this year but they have arrived. Well other people have had them, we have had the banging and crashing, and lightning flashing. Power going on and off. Thinking that we were in for a downpour I held off watering the garden. Did we get any rain? Not a drop, so there I was out in the dark watering the garden while wearing a head torch. Now these head torches might be brilliant normally but they do have their down sides too. These involve kamikaze moths, fortunately the big Hawk moths aren't about at the moment. We have seen a few early fireflies though.

Cleaning Operations On The Pool
Our pool is up and full of water. Unfortunately our pump decided that it was going to pack up this year. The impellar thought that it would be a good idea if it fell to bits and jammed up against the copper windings. We were fortunate to be able to borrow a pump, but it was less than half of the size. So only the top surfface of the pool was getting circulated. Meanwhile the rest of the pool was looking as though the village has been rinsing nappies out in it, fortunately without the accompanying smell. Unable to repair our pump we had to go and get a new one, and for the sake of 10 Leva I could the one with the much higher flow rate.

Yesterday was my designated pool cleaning day, so the new pump was swapped over with the borrowed pump. The vast majority of the water had taken on the appearance of pea soup, luckily without the consistancy. Now the pumps and fillters on these above ground pools are ok for circulating the water and straining the dead bugs and stuff from the surface, but how do you deal with the middle layer, or even the base? The base I have a scrubbing brush effort onto which you attach your garden hose. This supposedly creates a venturi effect and sucks all of the rubbish from the bottom of the pool  and deposits it into a little bag. Only in our case as I was scrubbing the bottom there was a cloud streaming out from behind the bag. Either the pressure of the hose was too great or the weave of the material that the bag is made from is too loose. I suspect the bag.

Big Shorts
Now some might has decided that venturing into that water was not for them, but I have swam in worse than that. So safe in the knowledge that I was not going to trip over old shopping trolleys, pram wheels or bike frames it was time to don shorts and commense battle. That water was bloody freezing, and every step stirred up more rubbish from the bottom. I dispensed with the scrubbing brush and used spare hose connected to the outflow connection to act like a hoover tube. At different times I was being supervised by Merlin, Billy or Mini, who took it in turns to sit on the pool steps, the dogs would have had a go too if we would have let them. The tube idea was acting brilliantly, but the filter soon clogged up. So that is when I found the next snagette. The elastic seems to have given up the ghost on my shorts, which became apparent as i was climbing out of the pool. Thankfully there were no neighbours about to see a full moon rising, and my apologies if anyone is reading this while eating. Henceforward these are my pool cleaning shorts, unless we have company and then Net might just hide them. The good news is that the day spent cleaning the pool yesterday is paying dividends. No longer does it look like the village nappy wash, nor does it look like pea soup, or even the water from washing up the pea soup pot and dishes. I can see the bottom and it is blue, OK so it isn't crystal clear yet but I am getting there. Yesterday I must have done about a dozen filter changes and flushes, the pool has now had an extra dose of chlorine granules to help it along the way. I had intended to do some more today but we have had plenty of rain and storms about.

Cellar Wall Drying Out
The storm last night also caused a problem. I was sat here on the computer when I could hear a drip drip drip. Thinking maybe it was from outside I went and closed all of the windows. I could still hear it, so into the bathroom and make sure that it is nothing there, everything seemed fine. The water meter was fine so there was no burst pipe. There was nothing coming through the ceiling upstairs, and nothing through the ceiling in the cellar. Then I noticed the wall behind the couch in the cellar. It was like the boys toilets after a competition at my old infants school, you know the type of competition that I mean.

In the normal course of things I enjoy seeing a waterfall as much as the next person. However, I am not overly keen about having a working example in our cellar lounge. I removed the couch out of harms way, and made sure that there wasn't any electrical about. Donning the now famous head torch, I went round to the back of the house. The problem was that we also had a waterfall coming from the guttering that runs along the back of the house. The rain was running down the roof so fast that it was going into the guttering and straight out again. I managed to protect the back wall and divert the rain away as best that I could. Touch wood it seems to have worked, as no further water has invaded the cellar, and the wall is starting to dry out now.

Just to rub salt into the wounds, the theme for the Facebook group's photo contest this month is water :o)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Bitter Sweet Moment

As many of you will know Monday was quite an important day. This was because we had arranged through Daisy that it was going to be the day when we handed over the funds raised by BinkyAid. An appointment had been made to meet the head of hospitals throughout the region, a neurosurgeon by the name of Dr Getsov. It seems quite a novel experience to find a medical man in charge of healthcare and not some shiny trousered accountant. Daisy had arranged for an 11 o'clock appointment for us all. We were not sure how these things are conducted, whether the funds get electronically transferred or if cash is the preferred way. We were assured that cash would make a greater impact with the press, and were also assured that withdrawing anything up to 5000 Leva would attract no fees. This was ideal for us as over the year BinkyAid had managed to raise a grand total of 4930, once shrapnel had been used to round things up.

Receipt From The Hospital's Chief Accountant
Knowing what banks are like we thought that it would be best if we got there nice and early. It would have all been so much simpler if the branch in Gorna had stayed open just that little while longer. As it was we arrived in VT for 9AM, and parked up. Normally when you park you can send a text via your mobile and pay the hourly fees that way. I tried this several times with no luck, but fortunately a parking attendant chose that moment to put in an appearance. Despite us being early there was still a queue inside the bank, and so we patiently waited our turn. Eventually we made it to the head of the queue and went to the next available cashier. We explained what we wanted, and this was followed by endless clicking of mouse buttons, and forms being churned out. All of this to withdraw the balance from the account and then close it. The cashier informed us that because it was above 3000 Leva being taken out we had to pay a fee of 40 Leva. Banks don't miss a trick, they charge you to open an account, they charge you monthly fees and then they charge you to take the money out too. No wonder people used to stuff money inside of matresses. We didn't even get a free envelope to put the money in, just this wodge of bank notes pushed across the desk to us. We had over estimated the time that we needed for dealing with the bank, so we had plenty of time for a coffee in the sunshine before meeting Daisy at the hospital.

One of these letters of acknowledgement will
be displayed in the new A&E Department
Sure enough at the appointed time Daisy turned up, we knew that she wouldn't let us down. So we all headed off into the hospital, hoping that someone would remember the way to the Doctor's office. We arrived outside there and Daisy thought it would be a good idea if she let someone know that we were there, so she spoke to the Doctor's secretary. Unfortunately Daisy had been speaking to him directly, and the secretary had nothing written down in his appointments book. She made a quick call to Doctor Getsov and all was explained to her, she did apologise as she lead us into his office but as she didn't know anything about it all, she hadn't made any appointments with the press. I think that both Net and I were secretly relieved, as neither of us go seeking attention, although some would have you believe differently. The Doctor turned up in his green scrubs and white coat, shook hands all round and explained how he intended to utilise the money that BinkyAid had raised. Daisy was translating, and we had to stop him when he mentioned the Children's Ward. Through Daisy we reminded him that this was to be used for equipping ambulances. You could see the penny drop, so there are others out there fund raising.
He took us on a tour of the new Accident and Emergency unit that is being built. He seemed ever so proud that various machines were going in the various rooms, and quite rightly so. Although to me it seemed like a lot of medical mumbo jumbo, I did understand X-Ray and MRI scanner. Included in this new department are also ambulances, so we felt that it was ideal that the sum raised be invested here. After all it is something that the community as a whole could benefit from. As we were leaving the department he said that a framed certificate with our names on would be displayed in the waiting room. Again we had to explain that there were a lot more people involved in BinkyAid and not just us, couldn't the certificate just mention BinkyAid? He agreed to this and had words with the hospital's Chief Accountant to that effect. We thought that we had got away quite lightly as we returned to his office, he explained about the certificate once again, and answered the query we had about tax liability, and then he was gone on his rounds again.

While we were waiting for the accountant to sort out the certificate, people were ushered into the office. Bugger they had cameras and microphones and things, we hadn't managed to escape the press after all.
The Handover
It was explained to us that Bulgarians don't really understand the concept of charity, and so we were being used to illustrate the point. Luckily enough most of the questions that were posed were roughly along the same lines as have been asked before. Daisy could have answered them all for me. For such a big thing to be made about handing over the cash, they insisted that it had to be in an envelope. So as a consequence it now looks like a bung is being handed over, although I am sure that this wouldn't normally happen in front of the press. Once the press had finished with their questions, that was it all done and dusted. I have included some links to the press releases just in case anyone is interested. For the Brits reading this then try using Google translate as they are in Bulgarian, and it will give you a different look at things. For some reason the press reports keep mentioning a round 5000 Leva figure, maybe they had a whip round between themselves after the interview and rounded it up.

All that remains to be said is a very big thank you to all who got involved with BinkyAid, in whatever capacity, no matter how big or small. As without your good selves none of this would have been possible, now we can get on with enjoying our retirement.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Bulgaria's Election Day

Election Scrutineers
Some of you will hopefully be aware that today is National Election day here in Bulgaria. This has been brought about by the resignation of Boyko Borisov, and his ruling GERB party back in February. To prevent the country being rudderless the President, Rosen Plevneliev, appointed an interim government in March, headed up by the diplomat Marin Raikov. Many people have said what an excellent job Mr Raikov has done, and wouldn't it be nice if he could be persuaded to stay on. Unfortunately he has always made it clear that he considers the position to be purely temporary. Which brings us rather nicely to today.

No Matter How You Get There, Just Vote
The lane which passes outside of our house has been rather busy today, with all manner of vehicles as people go to cast their vote. I think that the last time this lane saw so much traffic would possibly have been the last local elections. It seems as though we are on the most direct route to the polling station at the back of the Kmetstvo. As you can see from the above photo the ladies were outside the polling station ensuring fair play. Although it did somewhat resemble a Women's Institute meeting. They seemed slightly bemused as to why a strange Englishman would be wandering about taking photos. I did try to explain that they would be used in my blog, although whether any of them understood remains to be seen. I am sure that Reni, who owns the main village magazin, knew what I meant as she suddenly turned a bit camera shy.

The Short Arm Of The Law
By all accounts they are expecting quite a high turn out for these elections. The weather certainly helps, as does holding the voting on a Sunday. Maybe that is something that the UK could look at, as there doesn't seem to be the same apathy over here. Even for a small village, such as ours, voting is taken seriously, and it even warrants a Police presence, although that might be to ensure that the ballot box safely gets to where it is going once the polling station closes. As to whether we are permitted to vote in National elections seems to be a bit of a grey area, I think that we are permitted to in the local ones unless they have moved the goal posts again. In all fairness I wouldn't really know who to vote for, as no one seems inclined to make people aware of what their particular party stands for.

Bulgarian Political Campaign Tactics
So far, from what I can make out, each party pays people to go round and stick their party posters on top of opposing party posters. If they run out of posters then they can always resort to defacing other posters. To them that might be OK, but to my mind I might not be so cynical if they at least tidied up after themselves. Here we are surrounded by beautiful countryside, and bits of campaign posters will soon get blown here and there. Quite soon you will be confronted by the face of Boyko peering out at you from a carrier bag bush. It is one of the few things that really frustrates me about Bulgaria, they don't seem to care about the beauty that surrounds them. All too often when I have pointed out to someone that rubbish goes into a bin, I am confronted by a Bulgarian shrug of the shoulders. It is as if to say that someone else will tidy it up, maybe some will only be happy when the country is knee deep in rubbish.

I would like to report that the village has been a hot bed of political debate in the run up to these elections. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to have been any reaction to it at all, apart from the poster wars. It would not surprise me to find out that it has been the same person putting up and defacing all of these posters. The posters themselves will still be in evidence long after these elections have been decided. The only thing that seems to have affected people's lives, was the fact that since 9pm last night no one could buy any alcohol. So all they will have done would have been to stock up beforehand, just so they would have beer and wine today.

Will the elections make a difference? Who knows, and maybe only time will tell, but it is good to see people getting off of their backsides and using their votes. For me today involves more grass cutting, and village life continues much as it normally does, accompanied by the occasional slap as another mosquito bites the dust.

Village Life Continues Just The Same As Normal


Monday, 6 May 2013

A Six Day Weekend

Poppies are a welcome sight
Anyone trying to get something done in Bulgaria this past week, could well be forgiven for thinking that the country was closed. This certainly seemed to be the case for a lot of banks and officialdom. Hopefully it won't have slipped anyone's notice, but we are now in May. With that comes the usual May Day celebrations, and public holidays. Now this year this fell on a Wednesday. The Orthodox Easter started on the Friday, so many saw it as an opportunity to take the Thursday off and make a proper long weekend of things. Thankfully this didn't seem to affect the supermarkets, although they seemed to be full of customers. Unlike the holiday weekends in the UK, Bulgaria has mainly been blessed with sunshine. We did have a bit of a thunderstorm Saturday night, and some much needed rain but it was quite short lived. That is one thing that I have noticed since moving here, it is all to easy to lose track of what day it is.

Coloured Eggs
So this weekend just gone has been the Orthodox Easter celebrations. By all accounts church services are widely held the length and breadth of Bulgaria, apart from our village, where nothing much happens to notify you of the changing days. For me Saturday is memorable for two reasons. Firstly, by no small miracle Crystal Palace managed to stay in the play off places after the final game of the regular season. As is usual with them, they chose not to make things easy for themselves, now it's fingers crossed for the play offs. Also Saturday saw a 3 foot long snake trying to take up residence in our cellar. It seemed to have a bit of a grumpy disposition, and didn't like being picked up and thrown out of the french windows. So much so that it was rearing up and striking out at me. How it got in remains a bit of a mystery, but it could have been when I was cutting the grass out the front as the power lead was pugged in down in the cellar.

So that means that yesterday was Easter Sunday, maybe I am not so lost when it comes to which day is which after all. Some of you might remember that we had already celebrated the 'normal' Easter earlier in the year, and we now had the chance to celebrate a second time with Bulgarian friends. There seemed to be quite a lot of food which holds special significance. Sweet loaves of bread and coloured eggs to name but two. Net had made a grand job of slow roasting a joint of lamb. The only trouble being it was so tender that it was difficult to carve, not that anyone seemed to mind too much. The meal seemed to have something similar to a halftime when the coloured eggs came out. The purpose seems to be to try and crack other eggs while keeping yours intact. Whoever manages to do so will be blessed with good health for the coming year. Some of the eggs are really decorative, and if you have small children it must be great fun dyeing the eggs with them and choosing which design will go on which egg. Once eggs had been cracked it was back to eating again, and one of my favourite things, white chocolate cheesecake. Now for anyone who has never tried this, you are really missing out on a delight, but it probably wouldn't make it into anyone's calorie controlled diet. It is sinfully decadent, but I just don't care.

Anyone seen any eggs?
Today is the Bulgarian Saint George's day, possibly another excuse for a party. We had been invited out to the campsite in Dragizhevo, for the children's Easter Egg hunt, but we only went if we could be of some use. As luck would have it as soon as we got there I was able to start blowing up balloons, which meant that Ivan and Rado could start decorating the terrace area. During the Easter Egg hunt itself my task was to marshall the children away from the reed beds. It did give me the chance the witness Bulgarian children helping each other, rather than the normal squabbles that children in the UK seem to resort to. I also managed to take a few photos throughout the day of the various different games and activities. It seemed as though at one point it wasn't going o be just children having all of the fun.
Adults Can Be Big Kids Too 
How It Should Be Done

The best part of the day was that all of the children enjoyed themselves, and there were no temper tantrums. There was no pushing and shoving and the smaller ones were allowed to have slight advantages over the bigger ones with no grumbling. It was a pleasure to see everything being done in such a good nature, even some of the games which could get a bit messy. One such game involved eggs, some were hard boiled and some were raw. The object of the game was to break the eggs on a table, those with the raw eggs won, it was just messy enough for the children to really enjoy. All in all a brilliant day of fun and laughs, and it was great that we were invited to attend. So a very big thank you to Nick and Nicky and their staff at camping Veliko Tarnovo. At the end of the events there were prizes, and the children had a picnic lunch. At least the temperatures had cooled down a wee bit for them, as it would not have been quite so much fun in last week's heat. Also a very warm welcome to Ann, who has taken the plunge and started following the blog all the way from Canada.
Another Game With Eggs
Anyone For Eggs?

Prize Giving

Sack Races