Friday, 30 August 2013

Plug Has Come A Long Way

The Bash Street Kids
Growing up in Surrey during the sixties with two brothers, and a sister, meant that on a Saturday there were always plenty of comics about. One that everyone will probably remember was The Beano. One comic strip really sticks in my mind and that was The Bash Street Kids. One character has been brought to light in view of recent world events. That is the character of Plug. Who would have thought that all of those years ago he would rise to infamy, Teacher must have failed that bit on his Ofsted report. maybe when he was filling out Plug's school report he shouldn't have put "Must try harder". Some will have worked out Plug's alter-ego, whereas others might still be scratching their heads. Some might also be wondering what on earth this all has to do with Bulgaria, but please read on and all will be made clear. He said hopefully.

OK so plug's hidden identity is none other than that of Bashar al- Assad, also known as the President of Syria. If you look closely I am sure that you can see the identity of Plug shining through, a shame that he doesn't demonstrate Plug's sense of fair play. It's amazing what a small amount of plastic surgery can achieve.

Bashar al-Assad
So at the moment there is a team from the UN investigating the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military against a civilian target in a Damascus suburb. Whether it actually happened or not is the main question that everyone wants, the UN team is being hampered by sniper fire. Even before the conclusive proof is in one way or another there are already nations sabre rattling and threatening military action. There are also various naval assets nearly in position, so these are now being edged even closer into potential strike positions. As you might expect the US are one of these nations, other nations who are potentially beng dragged into all of this includes the UK. Finally the Prime Minister cut short his holiday and recalled Parliament for an emergency session.

David Cameron
So far there has been no agreement for the UK to become embroiled, and the US has stated that it is willing to go it alone. They might even have French support. Extra Typhoons have been deployed to the RAF base in Cyprus, although the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, states that in their configuration they are purely for air defence. Once the debate had been voted on in Parliament, and the vote was returned as one against UK military action there were further upheavals in the house. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, called those who voted against, 'a disgrace'. Well Mr Gove how about you signing up and drawing your tin lid and going out to do your bit. If you are lucky they might even have enough body armour for you.

There have been various rebel groups attempting to overthrow al-Assad's regime since 2011. In that time President al-Assad's regime has not covered itself in glory as they have continued to commit atrocities against their fellow citizens. They have been shot, bombed, tortured and raped as the world has largely stood idly by. Various attempts to broker peace deals have largely been stymied by Russia, who are one of Assad's major allies. This has led to many Syrians seeking asylum in other countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Some of these asylum seekers have continued through Turkey and are now crossing the border into Bulgaria, many of them doing so illegally.

Europe and North Africa
Measures have been taken to strengthen the border patrols, especially near to the Turkish and Greek borders. Only last year the numbers of refugees applying for asylum in Bulgaria were about 1000, so far this year there have been 2320 applications. It has been reported that in the last couple of days nearly 80 illegal immigrants have been detained. Of these three quarters were Syrians. My understanding of the asylum rules were that asylum was to be sought in the first safe country that the individual came to. So looking at the map Syrians have had to cross a lot of Turkey to apply for asylum in Bulgaria. At the moment the Bulgarian government says that it can cope with up to 3000 asylum seekers. At the moment they are being housed in state hostels and low cost hotels in Sofia, but there are also reports that there are still plenty of Syrians down in the border areas. There are growing concerns about the situation in Syria and the potential influx of refugees. A special operations unit has been created, one half of which will remain in Sofia, with the other half operating in the Haskovo and Elhovo municipalities. If they are granted asylum, will they have to jump through the same hoops that we as immigrants have to jump through. I can just imagine the first asylum seekers turning up at the KAT office in Veliko Tarnovo and being confronted by Mrs Helpful.

Meanwhile Germany is facing an influx of immigrants too. Although these are not for Syria, these are mainly from the former Eastern European countries. They are seeking economic stability, and guess what the vast majority are Roma. I am wondering if the Germans will try to integrate the Roma into German society, or will they do as the French did under Sarkozy and 'pay' them to return to their homeland. Already there have been many more reports of thefts, intimidation, noise and littering. I am not suggesting that all Roma are trouble makers, far from it. As with any element of society there are both good and bad aspects, but it is always the bad that has the focus placed upon it.

So by this time tomorrow the blog will have passed through 20000 hits, and we are now heading into the second hundred of blogs. A very big thank you from us to all of you who have taken the time to read these blogs.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Five Years On

For those who are regular followers of the blog, you might remember that we will have been here for five years next month. It is true what they say about time flies when you are having fun. I thought that for this 100th blog it would be a good idea if I wrote about the changes that we have noticed, and the things that we have learned, since moving here. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, comment or follow these blogs. I am surprised to see just how far these ramblings of ours have reached around the world, surprised but grateful. If it were not for people reading these blogs maybe we wouldn't be where we are with it today. As I have previously mentioned this is blog 100 and all told they have been accessed nearly 20,000 times.

If you had read the Bulgarian press during the tenure of the previous government you will have seen changes to the road networks. There have been new motorways that have opened, no matter what history was in the way. Then we have the Hemus Highway. Even before we moved out parts had been completed at either end. Five years on and it is still no nearer completion. Sometimes I do wonder if it will ever get finished, or will the Northern centre of the country still remain a backwater that largely gets ignored. The roads throughout the region are a bit of a joke, some look more like a patchwork quilt, some are more pothole than road, and then you get decent stretches of new road linking two villages. There is still the airport at Gorna Oriahovitsa largely standing idle. Politicians are quite happy to land there if they have to venture up this way, but any fare paying passenger has to either head to Sofia, Varna, Burgas or even Bucharest. It does feel like this region does get two fingers stuck up at it at times.

In a similar vein I feel that I ought to mention Bulgarian drivers. Now for a people who are so polite and helpful in everyday life, they undergo a complete personality change when they get behind the wheel of a car. I am sure that part of the Bulgarian driving test has something to do with psychic driving. Many people will have seen what can only be referred to as some very dodgy driving habits, especially when it comes to overtaking and where they choose to do so. Heaven help us if you go to an area that has just got a new roundabout. They do seem to be quite a rarity here. There is one here in VT and the give way lines were actually on the roundabout, and it used to cause chaos.

There are a lot more choices when you go shopping now, and some familiar looking stores have arrived here in Bulgaria. Who would have thought that we would have witnessed crowd control at the opening of a brand new Lidl store. I am still fascinated at how some of the other shops can be a going concern. I am sure that people have witnessed a row of shops, and they all have the shop assistants stood outside smoking or drinking coffee and not a soul in any of the shops. For the foreigner first coming out here it can be rather disconcerting having a shope assistant following you round a store. It is not that they distrust you, but they are actually trying to be helpful if you need any assistance. It is just one of the many differences between the cultures. Many will have noticed that even though shops might be empty of customers, coffee shops always seem to do well. I find that these are great places for a spot of people watching, and the variety of coffees to choose from are getting larger.

The food here is wonderful. It even tastes like it is meant to. Now back in the UK my idea of a salad would be a token bit of lettuce and maybe a slice of tomato. Neither would have any real taste, and I would find it difficult to get enthusiastic about it. Yet here I am quite happy to eat a Shopska salad, or any of the other many variety of salad. Perhaps it is because it all has a taste, and it is not just a watery insipid mess of nothingness. Yet when we first got here it was as though everyone was a stick thin model, over the years we have noticed that people have been getting slightly larger. despite there being larger people, the clothes sizes in the shops don't seem to have changed at all. One worrying thing that has been noted is that McDonalds has arrived here. I can safely say that I had not missed that style of fast food, a curry most definitely but not a burger.

Looking at things on a village scale it used to be that most people at least kept chickens, for eggs and fresh meat. Some might have had a couple of goats or sheep, afew might even have had a cow. The herds of cows, sheep and goats have been getting bigger and bigger each year. There doesn't seem to be anymore meat, or should I say any better meat available in the shops. When we have seen beef on sale we try to opt for the darkest meat there, but the sales assistant will often try to persuade us to have the brightest red piece on display. It would be nicer if the meat had been cut rather than hacked, but we can't have everything. They are starting to treat their animals so much better now. Once upon a time dogs were kept on a short chain in the yard or garden and that was their some total of life, now we even see some of them being walked on a lead.

Not so very long ago the Bulgarians were quite fatalistic. If something happened that they didn't agree with it was just treated with a shrug and a 'what can we do' attitude. Now they are trying to take charge of their lives. You only have to look at the ongoing protests that are still continuing around the country. Even though these are still largely peaceful, they are now starting to have their collective voice heard. I am not advocating lawless protests, vandalism and looting that often accompany such things in the UK, but if the Bulgarian people are taking to the street you can guarantee that something is amiss.

Anyone looking to have a change of lifestyle and relocate to Bulgaria are going to face quite a sharp learning curve. This is nothing like you will have faced in the UK. For one thing you and your partner will be spending a lot more time together. It might sound idyllic, but a lot have found that cute endearing ways soon can become an irritant. It might sound obvious but every now and again you do need your own bit of space, whether it is the garden, the shed or a workroom. You will also need a close group of friends, now we were quite private people in the UK for various reasons, yet we ended up creating various groups on facebook which is something that we wouldn't have done in the UK. Initially when we came out here we were possibly guilty of being quite naive. I can remember thinking that we were all foreigners in a strange country and wouldn't it be nice if we could all help each other out. Unfortunately it soon proved impossible, as so many were only interested in their own needs, without even saying anything to you business cards were thrust at you. There are distinct advantages in getting someone to show you the ropes, but try not to stick solely with the ExPats. The conversations might be easier, but you would be missing out on so much that we can all learn from the Bulgarians. Try a mix of the two and hope that you hit a happy balance.

Some changes I am really pleased to see. As everyone knows, or ought to, this is a country steeped in
history. There is so much to see here that will put you in touch with these bygone ages. I was quite disappointed when we first moved here, to see that so many historic  buildings were in  bad states of repair. It was almost as though people had decided their countries history and heritage didn't matter. Now they have learned that these same buildings can also become tourists attractions, and are now starting to care for them. Another aspect of life here that we enjoy are the eco trails and walks in the countryside. As there is so much open land here the air is so much cleaner. Although not so long ago there would be carrier bags adorning so many of the trees and shrubs. Now people seem to have a bit more civic pride about them and more rubbish is ending up in the bins provided.

There are efforts being made to recycle more, but the different coloured bins don't seem to make much difference as rubbish will just be stuffed into the most convenient bin. Then there are the skip divers who will salvage anything that has potential worth from the deepest recess of a municipal wheelie bin. One thing that I have noticed is that the same bin lorry will empty the different coloured bins which sort of defeats the object.

Even something as simple as gardening needs to be relearned. The soil here is so rich that anything which would grow to 6 inches in the UK will become a triffid over here. So spacing needs to be increased. The summers might just be a little warmer so if you are growing vegetables how you water will also need to change otherwise you can end up killing your plants simply by watering them. The good news is that your Bulgarian neighbours are only too eager to offer help and advise.

So after nearly five years of living in this small village in the middle of nowhere we have learned so much. We have tried to help ourselves by watching and listening, if we didn't understand something we would ask questions. Things do change and evolve, and hopefully that also means ourselves. We have tried to integrate into village life, and to also help others. I remember how different everything used to feel when we got here, that feeling of nervousness the first time you drove out of the village to go to town, would you be able to find your way back. It helps if you can read signposts which are written in cyrillic, and these can also help you  learn the alphabet.

So would we swap our new lives for our old ones? No thank you. We have nearly got five years under our belts, and I am looking forward to the next five. We have a wider circle of friends here than we ever did in the UK, both Bulgarians and ExPats. They have all helped make the last five years fly by. There are probably so many more changes that have happened, and also things that we have learned. I am sure that things will continue to change and I certainly hope that we will continue to learn. This really is a great place to be. It isn't the UK, if we wanted that we could have stayed where we were, so it is down to us to change and to try and fit in


Friday, 16 August 2013


Entering The Village
The other day on the Facebook group, The Very Friendly Group For ExPats And Bulgarians, there was quite a lively debate going on about the problems facing Roma integration. As a side issue another question was thrown into the mix. It was "How Well Do The ExPats Think That They Have Integrated Into Their Villages?". I thought that was an excellent question, but unfortunately I don't think that it received the attention that it deserved. It was certainly a question that got me thinking about how we have fared.

At the end of next month we will have been living in this little village for 5 years, so maybe it is time to take stock of the situation. Depending on which map you look at, or even the detail that a map contains, some of you might be able to find this village whereas others will have a problem doing so. This is because the village is so small, and as a description remote doesn't really do it justice. According to 2007 figures there were 202 people living in the village, I think that figure will be slightly lower now as there seem to be more deaths than births. There is definitely something about this village which attracts us foreigners, as round about 10% of the village population, either permanent or holiday home owners, are foreign. Even though there is such a proportion of us foreigners here is doesn't mean to say that we all live in a small enclave, or spend each day in and out of each other's houses at the exclusion of the other villagers.

It has been said that the English are quite lazy when it comes to speaking, or even learning, a foreign language. To be perfectly honest that does often hold true to those still in the UK. Those who have relocated to a foreign country will often make attempts at learning the language. Bulgarian is possibly not the easiest of languages to tackle, and when we left the UK there were no classes available, maybe that has changed now. What we did learn from books and CDs had to be relearned when we got here, as noone could understand the way we pronounced words. I am not suggesting that we are anywhere near fluent, I very much doubt that we ever will be. What seems to make all the difference is that we make the attempt. It really used to annoy me back in the UK whenever I used to hear 'They come over here, why don't they learn to speak the language'. Well now the shoe is on the other foot, but some people find learning another language more difficult than others do. I still make mistakes but I plod on. I have to apologise if I have ever kept people waiting in a cafe or restaurant, even if the waiting staff speak English I insist on ordering in Bulgarian. I think that it helps me, and I must be doing ok as we have never had to eat carpet with a side order of dog biscuits, or something along those lines. In the village magazin we have sat with the locals and had varying levels of success at holding conversations. Sometimes when Rumen is there, if there are problems trying to work out what a word means, we can end up with German and French thrown into the mix.

Village magazin
So when the magazin was open on a more regular basis we used to be quite frequent customers. I have even been invited to go round and watch the football with the owner on previous occasions. Unfortunately they have changed the opening hours and their custom seems to have suffered, and that isn't just ourselves, as people are taking their trade to neighbouring villages, whereas these villages used to come into this one for the same reason. Maybe it is a case of swings and roundabouts, but you can't support your village shop when it is not open. One thing that we can definitely say is that with it being such a small village everyone knows who everyone else is, and there is a nice feeling of neighbourliness. So whenever we meet people as we are wandering round the village everyone is quite happy to stop and chat.

The Vegetable Garden
We have made the conscious effort to try and fit in with village life. The villagers grow their own fruit and vegetables, and so do we. Before we came out here there were numerous postings on the various forums about villagers giving you their surplus produce. Since we have been here it has only happened a couple of times, but the village knows that we work our garden in much the same way that they do. Our first summer here and our vegetable plot was the talk of the village. We were growing giant pumpkins, and Nickolai the waterman used to monitor their progress each month, when we harvested them the seeds were going here, there and everywhere.

Baba's on the right Nickolai's on the left
I keep the grass cut down at the front of our house, and quite often while I am out doing so I get the nod of approval from the Kmet. When Baba was alive I also used to cut the grass at the front of her house. Despite being totally unable to understand a word she would sit outside and natter away, it was quite disappointing when she died. Sometimes it is a bit of a drawback having a garden totally enclosed by walls as village life can pass you by, but it does prevent our dogs going on the rampage round the village.

Some of you will remember the other winter and me appearing on a news item. This was largely down to our Kmet, sometimes I do think that my name has changed as quite a few times when she spots me it is 'Neil tuka, Neil tuka'. At times like that you do feel as though you are actually integrating into the village. In the winter if I think that the roads are too icy I will do the same as the villagers and get the Freddie Krueger bus into town. So for the most part I do think that we are just considered as part of the village, even if we are foreigners. We try to fit into the village way of life, rather than try to make village life fit to us. One thing that we have to remember is that the villagers have been existing this way for allof their lives and we are the new comers.

At other times you do get the impression that as foreigners you do not get invited to, or made aware of, certain events. Take the village day for example. There was a big hoo hah about getting permission to have a pensioners club in the village. People were chipping in with this and that, the ExPats were asked to supply an air conditioning unit. Then we were asked for additional funds to pay for fitting it. Since then we have been invited to the pensioner's club on 3 occasions. Once for a village day, once for another celebration and once for a pensioner's club meeting. I have also pointed out that the ExPat wheelie bins are targetted by the bin baggers. The village Roma are not shy about coming forward and asking for handouts, although thankfully not all of them. Some do just want to get on with their own lives but will help out if you need them, others if you give them an inch they will take a mile.

So the question was about whether we feel that we have integrated into the village. The answer has to be both yes and no. I can now go round to the Post Office or the magazin and get what I need, chat with neighbours that I meet, all without speaking any English. We are known in the village, and the Kmet and her predecessor seem to think we are ok, Nickolai the waterman is a very quiet man but happily chats to us. Amy, Saeed and their two children keep a watchful eye on our house, and only ever ask us for anything in the direst of emergencies. They get our surplus produce and first refusal on anything we have grown out of or no longer need, we occasionally get eggs and fresh banitsa's. If people are waiting for the bus to go into town we have stopped to give lifts. On the down side we have been ripped off, but that was maybe just us being a bit naive. As foreigners we do often feel that we get overlooked, but sometimes it is difficult to integrate into a village where nothing really happens or changes on a day to day basis. The good news is that this village does feel like home and I wouldn't swap it to return to anywhere in the UK, so the village is stuck with us. No matter how hard I try I just can't get to like the music though. Thankfully the internet is now much better and UK radio can be streamed through the computer, so at the moment I am listening to Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2.  

Well this is blog number 99 and I am still open to suggestions if people want anything particular covered in the next blog. I would also like to say a quick hello to Bev the latest blog follower. :o)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The August Heat

If you are familiar with these blogs, then you will also know that August often produces some really hot temperatures. At the moment this year has been quite bearable compared to the heat that we had to face last year. One thing that I have noticed is that as soon as the sun climbs into the sky first thing in the morning the temperature climbs quickly. The overnight dew soon gets baked off by the direct sunlight, but that just adds to the humidity, sometimes it feels just like trying to wade through treacle. The heat is manageable, but the humidity often means that my get up and go hasn't even managed to get up in the first place.

A 7 Legged Wasp Spider
We can normally manage to get some work done out in the garden first thing in the morning, before the sun gets up too high. Some people have fallen foul of the sun. It really is strong here at this time of year and you do need to pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. It is really important to get used to wearing a hat when you are doing anything outside, and always remember juust how strong the sun is. We are quite lucky because we have the cellar to retreat to. As the majority of it is underground, at this time of year it does stay nice and cool. Conversely in the winter it does stay nice and warm. Some people have said that they have had difficulty sleeping at night due to the heat, others have had to resort to air conditioning. So far we have only had to have the fan on a couple of times, as here it does seem to get quite cool of an evening.

Mind you, different people have different ways of cooling down. Yesterday the forecast was for thunder showers and sunshine. The clouds seemed to be building just as we had finished working in the garden, so I took the chance to do a bit of pool cleaning. It's not that easy to do when keeping one eye on what the weather is also doing. The clouds seemed to continue building, but then round about midday they began to disappear along with my headache. There was a good reason for cleaning the pool, and that was the meteor shower last night. There is something nice and relaxing about floating in the pool, and just looking up at the numerous stars and satellites shining overhead. There were a few problems with mosquitoes, midges and gnats, not to mention the kamikaze moths, but eventually even they decided to leave us alone. One of the best things about living in a village in the middle of nowhere is that there is so little light pollution. It really is a star gazers paradise living in the back of beyond.

The village might even be entering into the 20th century. A couple of weeks ago they started cutting out some of the road surface for repairs at the top of the village. Unfortunately that is a far as they have got, and each trip out is like driving through the Somme trenches. I am hoping that it has only been deferred due to the heat. I will keep you all posted about the goings on. There is one stretch of road that I really wish they would look at. I am guessing that as it is outside of the village that it isn't the village's responsibility. Unfortunately it is right where two municipalities meet, so I would imagine that they both shrug their shoulders and claim that it is the other's responsibility.

Oil Lamp
At this time of year we try to avoid the heat of the day, and if we have to go anywhere we try to do so either earlier or later than normal. This Sunday saw us going to the car boot sale over in Hotnitsa. It was while we were there that someone suggested going to Duncan's. I have to admit that it was somewhere that I had never even heard of before, so I was more than keen to go there. So in two vehicles we left Hotnitsa and headed to Stefan Stambolovo. I glad that we were following as I would never have found it in a month of Sundays. We did have Ostriches and Peacocks pointed out as we made our way there. Even the Ostrich seemed rather hot, and I would have thought it would be better equipped to deal with the heat than us lot.

In due course we arrived at Duncan's, and even though he had been at the car boot sale earlier we were made to feel more than welcome. We were largely left to our own devices as we were rummaging around through different storage rooms and barns.

Hay/Animal Feed Fork
Everywhere you looked it was though another part of Aladin's cave had opened up in front of you. He has wooden boxes, metal boxes and wooden farm tools and troughs in one area. Barrels and Spinning Wheels and bits of looms in another. It was great and no-one seemed to mind getting a bit dusty and cobwebby.  It was a bit like going to a restaurant that only serves your favourite foods, and you end up eating too much that you end up feeling uncomfortable. Well with Duncan's there is so much brilliant stuff that you don't really know what you want to buy, so you buy whatever catches your eye. Then you have the quandry of how do you get it home. Plenty of others must have faced this dilemma as Duncan very kindly said that we could leave it there and as we were due to be in town today we could pick it up then. Also it gave me another chance to make a fuss of his dog.

Mentsi (thanks Martina)
Just a couple of things before I close this blog. A very warm welcome to Temi, who has just started following the blog. Also once again my thanks to all those who take the time to read these blogs. We are not that far away from our 100th blog, and it is thanks to you all, for your kind words and encouragement that has got us this far. So if anyone has anything special that they would like covered in the 100th blog please let us know.

Friday, 2 August 2013

It Has Been Over A Year

I can safely say that, yes it has been over a year since I last smoked. What did you think that I meant? I am not saying that it has been easy, but if I can manage to do so in a country like Bulgaria, then there is hope for everyone who wishes to give up. Bulgaria seems to be a nation of smokers, maybe not as many when we first got here, but there are still plenty. Like other EU countries, legislation was put in place supposedly banning smoking in enclosed public spaces like bars, cafes and restaurants. In typical fashion initially it was being enforced, but the novelty soon wore off. Strangely this also seemed to coincide with winter, and soon people were quite happily puffing away in bars and cafes again. I guess that it must be quite unnerving getting a fine for smoking from a policeman who is smoking as he writes out the ticket. Mind you in these remote villages I think the Police drive through once a week, and that is it unless they get called out.

Anyway, I had been smoking properly since I was 16, which is when I joined up. At that time even on a shore establishment you could get duty free cigarettes and tobacco, but you had to be a declared smoker. There were various regulations about how many cigarettes you could take ashore with you on a night out. Many used to say that they were made from the sweepings from the floors of the various tobacco companies. One thing I do remember is the nasty hacking cough that you developed after smoking these Blue Liners. So here I am a good few years on and I am smoke free. Those who know me will remember me from when I used to smoke. Some people are very observant and I still get the 'Didn't you used to smoke?' Well yes for about 35 years.

Do I feel any better for it? In all honesty somedays I do and somedays I don't. I guess that it all depends on what I am doing at the time. My main times for smoking used to be when I had my nose stuck in a good book, or when I was on the computer. I seem to have broken those habits, but yes at times I do get the feeling that just one cigarette wouldn't hurt. I know myself though, and I can have the breaking strain of a soggy Kit Kat and one would lead to two, and before I know it I would be a full time smoker again. Occasionally I do have a bit of passive smoking though. I suppose if I stopped and thought about things I would frighten myself if I calculated how much I had spent over the years just to have it go up in smoke.

Do I miss it? Too right I do. I really used to enjoy a nice cigar. The smell of them were my downfall the last time that I gave up smoking. Fortunately I am the only one who I have ever seen smoking a cigar in the village, apart from when we have had visitors. There are times when I do miss smoking more than others, and it is not the after meal smoke that I miss the most. It is the while I am out in the garden watering the plants. I had got into the habit of getting so far round and then sparking up, at least it used to keep the flies and the mozzies away. Now without the smokescreen to hide behind it is almost as though I can hear the mozzies, midges and gnats sharpening up their knives and forks as they prepare for a feast. The flies seem to be Japanese, as they tend to be Kamikaze flies who like crashing straight into your eyes. So what do I do now? For anyone observing it must resemble an uncoordinated Ninja sending a semaphore message. Maybe the flies just want to see me like this as they have a sense of humour.

So I shall carry on with my Ninja semaphore tactics in the hope that eventually the insect life will get bored and go and plague someone else instead. maybe Sir Winston Churchill had it right, as I can't remember seeing any pictures or film of him flapping his arms like a mad cricket umpire. Still it could be worse and I could be the Marlboro Man.

So like I said it wasn't easy but I managed to quit, and if I can do so then so can anyone else who wants to quit. This time I managed to do so with a combination of things. I switched from tailor made cigarettes to tobacco, I do miss that Old Holborn Yellow pack. I then tried one of those electronic cigarettes, and may I say that they taste awful. Finally I went onto the patches. I used a strong patch for two days and a weaker patch for two days. Like I said I don't intend being one of the Draconian ex-smokers as I do know how hard it is to quit, and it is oh so easy to start again.