Sunday, 23 March 2014

Spring Bounces Back

Spring Has Returned
Many of you might have noticed that the other day it was the Vernal Equinox. This is one of two occasions when the length of day is equal to the length of night. Many also view this as the official first day of Spring, and there are many celebrations and festivals which have been passed down throughout time. Many have their roots in pagan celebrations, even some of the more religious ones. I am pleased to report that at the moment Baba Marta seems quite happy and content. I have often felt that at this time of year it is almost as if someone throws a switch and says 'OK, that's the end of winter'. Let me put it this way, about a week ago I did my normal cleaning the ash out of the fire duty, and then laid the fire up ready to be lit. Well, it is still there all nicely laid up just in case now. If it doesn't get used between now and Autumn at least the wood will be extra dry. Thankfully we also seem to have finally shaken off whatever bug or virus that we have had for the last few weeks. So we have been catching up on jobs which have needed doing, but up until now we haven't had either the energy or the inclination to actually do them.

Forsythia and Plum blossom
It has often taken all of our energy just to do our usual daily routines, which isn't really like either of us. When Baba Marta has been having words with herself it isn't too bad, as we have had strong winds and the occasional shower thrown in for good measure. So it has been slightly impractical to do outside jobs. We should have realised that Spring was just round the corner when Ladybirds began appearing on the hallway floor. Some were alive but a bit lethargic, others hadn't even fared that well as they seemed a bit dry and shrivelled. Now the ones that are still living I can understand, but how do the dead ex-ladybirds get there? Are we about to be invaded by zombie ladybirds out for blood, remember last year when I reported that they bite. Perhaps there is a ladybird version of Star Trek, and they get transported from one location to another. I can just imagine it, there they are assembled in the transporter room, ready for their new mission and a voice from the back utters those immortal words "Beam me down Spotty". Like I have previously mentioned we are both nearly back to normal, or about as 'normal' as we get, so we have been able to tackle outside jobs.

Garden wall outside
One job that has needed attention is to freshen up the paintwork on the garden walls. The water dripping from the tiles and then splashing back up had made all along the base very grubby looking. I was also surprised at the number of cat paw prints that they have managed to get everywhere. From this photo you can see how far I managed to get, the inside of the wall was also done. Instead of paint I used something that had been recommended to us. I am guessing that most of us have seen the white painted trunks of trees, this is done by using something called Var. You can also use it as a paint. It comes in a 5kg bag, and you mix it with water and some C200 glue (looks like the PVA glue).

Garden Wall Inside
Putting it on I was a bit sceptical as it didn't seem to do much, and all of the marks were showing through, but it has dried to a brilliant white finish. Even going over that horrible grubby bit at the bottom of the wall has come up looking good after a couple of coats. Be warned it is rather a messy job, and I ended up with white freckles and dollops here, there and everywhere. It is also quite beneficial to wear sun glasses if the sun is behind you as it can be quite dazzling. I do have to get some more bags of the stuff, but at 1.60 for a 5kg it is a very cheap option. I shall see how it lasts throughout the year, but so far I am quite impressed, and fortunately I am not the only one which means I get to paint the rest of the walls too.

The Dog's Hideaway Spot
With the fine weather the cats have been outside doing what cats do best (besides eating and sleeping), and that is chasing things. Any butterfly or moth which lazily ventures into the garden is fair game for being stalked and pounced upon. Low flying birds also get sized up as a potential target, and there are also the ever present crickets and grasshoppers. Unfortunately all of the village Tom cats have decided that our little Liszt is the best thing since sliced bread. I have made enquiries at a couple of vets and I get told not until she is a year old, which is quite stupid and no wonder there are so many puppies and kittens about if that is their attitude. The next vet I enquire at Liszt will suddenly have aged a few months. It's bad enough that a very pregnant Splodge, who used to live next door, keeps appearing at meal times, I hope that she has her litter elsewhere.

Already we have heard people pondering how hot it will get this year. Even today it has been 24C in the shade, which isn't too bad for this time of year. I don't know what the forecasters are predicting but the dogs have already starting digging out under the Berberis round the back. When it is in full leaf this provides them with a nice shady spot from where they can observe everything that happens in the garden. Already the  Kamikaze flies are out and about. These are the ones who strap on a crash helmet and deliberately head for your eyes. Some people have seen the Storks, and some are even reporting that the Swallows are already back. So far we haven't seen either but because we have fruit trees in blossom we have taken our Martenitsas off. I have seen my first tree frog of the year, but I'm not sure what that actually signifies.

Round the Back
The lawn mower has also had its first outing since its winter hibernation. Today was only giving the main 'lawns' and round the back an initial trim, mainly so I can check the condition after the winter. We have a few areas that were definitely scorched by the frosts, and a few places where I will need to reseed. At the moment, I don't need to worry too much about the grass banks outside, as yesterday I noticed Emi and Saeed's two goats having a bit of a munch. In front of the house wasn't too bad but round the back is a bit tussocky. I'm sure that I gave all grass areas a final cut at the same time last year, but it seems a lot thicker and taller round the back. One thing I did find lurking in the grass was pebbles from the gravel driveway. These will be from my snow clearing duties during the winter. I had hoped that I'd set the blade high enough to avoid them, but no such luck. If there was a pebble the blade found it, so I have now got a bit of gravel rash round my ankles. I won't mention the few surprises that the dogs had left lurking in the long grass just in case people are eating. So it appears that winter is now a memory, spring is now here and we have summer to look forward to.

Looking Over Part Of The Village
Our Twisted Hazel 


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Baba Marta Is Having One Of Those Days

Do Not Disturb
Today is one of those days when Baba Marta is busy talking to herself. One moment she agrees with what she is saying, and the next she is arguing herself. So in other words one moment there is sunshine, closely followed by ominous looking black clouds. It was so different yesterday, when it was just sunshine and blue skies. The good news is that even though neither of us are totally back to normal, whatever that might be, we still had enough energy to start pottering round in the garden. Even the cats and dogs were all out enjoying the weather with us. There are several areas in the garden which are being changed this year.

The Old Rockery
This used to be a rockery, near to where the pool sits. We have decided that we will level it and put it down to grass. It seems like a nice area to maybe enjoy the sunshine of a Summer's evening. As it will not be in shade at all during the day, the chances are that it will be too hot, so we still have either the patio area next to the house or up under the barn. So last autumn we dismantled the rockery and levelled it out. We were hoping that the frosts would kill the weeds, and they have done to a certain extent, but there are still more which needed pulling out by hand. Unfortunately the cats had decided, that as it was a nice flat area full of crumbly earth they had a better use for it. So at least there was another reason to rake the surface first. I wouldn't mind so much but no sooner had we de-catted the area, one of our little treasures was back on there checking that it still worked. Hopefully now that it has been levelled, raked and seeded they will actually stay off of it, although somehow I very much doubt it.

Will It Rain Or Will It Shine?
Today we had hoped to carry on where we left off yesterday and weed some more of the flower beds and start sorting out the vegetable patch. As I mentioned earlier Baba Marta is in one of her contrary moods today, She probably would not take very kindly to me pointing out that she also seems to be suffering with wind today, so perhaps I had best not mention that. We are still getting a few ground frosts first thing in the morning but they are getting less as the temperatures are creeping up. We aren't even really using the wood burning fires now, instead we are making use of the gas fires just to take the chill off of things. The animals are somewhat disapponted as they were taking it in turns guarding the fire, and the gas fire just isn't the same.

Working in the garden is also having an effect on our Martenitsi. They are definitely starting to look a bit grubby and worn. Maybe wearing them in the shower is also having an adverse effect on them. The good news is that there have been sightings of Storks from people living down in the South of the country, and also over Burgas on the coast. If they had planned heading up this way today they would have to contend with quite a stiff head wind coming out of the North. Maybe they are better off having a couple of days at the seaside and then come up. As Storks are not renowned for having thumbs I can't imagine them being able to hitch a lift this way. At the moment we are still one of the only villages, that I know of, round this way without a Stork's nest, maybe this year one will get built.

An FM Transmitter
Now working in the garden seems to go so much better with music, unfortunately the CD part of the player up in the kitchen has given up the ghost. The rest of it seems to work fine, which is handy as I have hooked up an extra pair of speakers for outside. So although the radio works, some of the radio stations do seem to leave a lot to be desired, previously I have got round this by loading up a blank CD with MP3 tracks from my CD collection. Now the CD part is not working we had to devise a way of getting music outside which didn't entail radio twiddly. The radio stations here seem to be fixated with either Chalga or folk music, neither of which I find particularly appealing. Then Net asked would the FM transmitter work if CDs were played on my computer? There was only one way to find out, and it does. These transmitters have something like a 50 metre range so if our neighbours over the road are fiddling about with the tuning on their radio they might just pick us up.

Maybe my CD collection isn't exactly up to date, but it certainly gives me a decent mix of musical genres to keep me happy while I'm working in the garden. Although, it is quite possible that the average Bulgarian might also ask what the bloody hell am I listening to. It has been known for me to start pogoing when I have been watering the garden, neither of which were very successful. Anyone looking over the wall when I am in mid Nutty Boy Train will probably feel that I have well and truely lost the plot. Fortunately I tend to resist the urge to break out the air guitar, but I have been known to use plant pots as drums. Talking of air guitars, is there something like a gaida equivalent? I can just imagine it now, villages going mental playing their air gaidas. For those who don't know what I am referring to, the gaida is basically the Balkans answer to the bagpipes. Maybe one day I will learn to appreciate the music from here, but at the moment I'm not holding my breath. It took me long long enough to enjoy the sound of a massed pipe band, and a solo agony bag still sounds like someone doing something unpleasant to a cat. So now that we know that the FM transmitter works from my playlist on the computer, I have plenty of options available.

Work Harder Minion

Friday, 7 March 2014

A Full Afternoon, Despite Feeling Rough

Today has been one of those days when you have to try and motivate yourself to do stuff that needs doing. There seems to be a bug or a virus going round at the moment, and both of us have been feeling out of sorts for over a week now. We have had various bits and pieces that needed doing but our plans also had to coincide with the availability of others. Everything had been planned and arranged for today, so it was definitely Sod's Law that we can't shake off this yucky feeling. On the other hand we probably caught whatever it is from in town, so it seemed polite to try and return it to town. Although I should point out that I didn't go round deliberately breathing on people. So once we had almost motivated ourselves it was off into town with all of our bits and pieces that needed doing. We didn't even leave home until the afternoon as we hoped to be in, do what needed doing, and then back home again huddled in front of the fire, letting another forgotten coffee go cold.

Now we are 7 days into March, and I don't think that Baba Marta has smiled once. The weather has been dreary to say the least, and the grey skies are starting to be matched on my Martenitsas. What were once red and white are starting to look a shade of grey and red. It still didn't stop me doing Stork watch on the way into town. Although had there been any Storks we might not have recognised them dressed up in foul weather clothing.

Once I had parked up my first task was to go and pay the bills. They are certainly not as extortionate as the bills that we used to face in the UK. I can pay all of our monthly utility bills by just visiting three locations. Net felt more inclined to stay in the car, and she had even prepared herself by bringing her kindle along. So my first stop was Vivacom, where it is simply a matter of in, wait a couple of minutes, pay the bill and back out and on to the next stop. That was to pay the water bill. So once again it was in, wait a couple of minutes for a cashier to come free and move forward with the bill. Only this time a large gypsy woman pushed in front of me. The cashier pointedly ignored her, pointed at me and waved me forward. The card that I have with the client number on was missing a digit, but rather than brush me off she kept trying different combinations until she got it. Two down and one to go, the electric bill. I knew how much it was as I had checked on line, but there was a queue to the door and only the one cashier. Should I wait in the queue, shuffling forward with everyone else, or do something else and try later? I stuck it out. All bills paid and heading back to the car I decided to get my mobile sorted out. I just use top up vouchers, but for some reason the latest one wouldn't work. Now with M-Tel's Prima if you don't use your balance or top it up within a year they will give your number to someone else, and any credit you have they keep. It seems a bit shonky but that is the way that they do things, and to prevent it happening I wanted to put credit on the phone, but the phone wouldn't let me. It seems that I was using the old method of applying credit from a voucher, but thankfully they soon sorted things out.

With the bills paid it was back to the car to get Net, and go round to the insurance broker to renew the house insurance. Now some people feel that this is an unnecessary expense, but all too often you hear of people losing their homes and possessions due to a fire. So for peace of mind at least, we feel that this is something important. Our broker had phoned us to remind us that the policy was due to expire, and there the similarity with a UK broker ended. It really was like chalk and cheese. As soon as we walked into the brokerage our broker left her existing clients for 2 minutes, made sure that we had somewhere to sit and would we like a coffee while we waited. We were even introduced to her mother, we met her father a couple of years ago. She patiently dealt with her existing clients before giving us her full attention once she had finished.

Unlike the UK policies where they might not mention certain things, or at least bury them in the small print, I am quite convinced that when we are told that we have full coverage, that we actually have full coverage. We are even covered in case a plane crashes into the house, or if it bit falls off of a plane and damages the house. It might sound odd, but living out in the back of beyond it could well happen. All too often there are rickety old Antonov An-2s which are being used for crop spraying. Many of these aircraft are about 60 years old, which is even older than me. In bad weather I have enough aches and pains, although thankfully I haven't started leaking yet, so who knows with these aircraft and the treatment they might have had throughout the years.

Another concern living up on a hill is the weather. As I have mentioned in a previous blog the thunder storms, and accompanying lightning sometimes have to be seen to be believed. At least behind us we have the village church, and looking up I can see lightning conductors, Although whether these are grounded or not could be a different matter, quite possibly the metal strapping might have been acquired by a village entrepreneur for scrap value. Also there are supposedly minor tremors and the possibility of earthquakes to take into consideration. Also because we use the same company, and the same broker, we end up with a discount too. Perhaps it is like a no claims bonus , but on your house and not your car. Once the new policy had been produced and signed it was onto our next stop, but not before being told that next time we are in town we are to call in for coffee, not as clients but as friends. Like I mentioned earlier it is chalk and cheese compared to the UK.

Neither of us have used E-Kont before so we weren't really sure what to expect, and fortunately our insurance broker had given us good directions enabling us to find it. We had a parcel which needs to go to another part of the country, and this service had been recommended. So with said parcel we made our way into the office. Not sure of the procedure we did ask if either of them spoke English but neither did, but they spoke slowly so everything was conducted in Bulgarian. Well on their part it was, we probably used a dialect akin to pidgin Bulgarian. As best we could we explained where we wanted the parcel to go and what was in it. Then they proceeded to open up the parcel which I had spent 30 minutes carefully wrapping this morning. Bugger! Once they were satisfied that it was in fact what we told them it was they re-wrapped it for us, thank heavens for that. Now this parcel was basically being sent COD, so all of the fees are paid at the other end when it arrives tomorrow. We get our fee next time that we are in town. So although we enquired about English, not a word of English was spoken.

Our final task was to sort out the accountancy fees for the previous tax year. As foreigners we had to form a company when we initially bought the house and the land that it sits on, thankfully this is no longer the case. However, because we have a company we have to file tax returns, which have to be declared and then entered onto the trade register. Even though it is a non trading company and everything which is reported is zero we still get the privilege of paying for them to know this. There are certain people who tell you that these companies can be dissolved, for a fee. I am erring on the side of caution, what would happen if the UK came out of the EU, would these foreign nationals then have to reform another company. Like so many things over here, depending on how many people you ask for information will have an effect on the number of different answers that you might expect to hear. By the time all of this had been completed we were definitely flagging and so headed home.

I was so tired and washed out that I didn't even do Stork watch on the way home. For all I know there could have been a parade of Storks complete with a brass band and signs claiming "Look, loads of Storks", and I wouldn't have noticed. Hopefully we have managed to leave the lurgy in town for someone else to 'enjoy' and we can start to feel vaguely 'normal' again, whatever that might be.

Monday, 3 March 2014

A Lighter Look At Bulgaria

For those who don't know today marks the day when the San Stefano peace treaty was signed 136 years ago. In short this meant the liberation of Bulgaria from beneath the 500 year rule of the Ottoman Empire. This is cause for major celebrations throughout Bulgaria, and apart from memorial wreaths being laid in front of various statues and monuments there are many parties which take place, and boy do the Bulgarians like a party. For some unknown reason the Bulgarians are often portrayed as a rather fatalistic, even dour, people. There is even a museum of Satire in Gabrovo, and the Gabrovans, or is it Gabrovites or even Gabrovians, often find themselves as the butt of many Bulgarian jokes. I am pleased to say that I have met many Bulgarians with a great sense of humour, and many of the following observations have been made by them. So it is high time to take a lighter look at life in Bulgaria. Some of you might have seen these before, but many of you won't have done.

1. The most popular name for animals in Bulgaria is Heidi, and it is not uncommon for whole flocks of chickens, or herds of goats, sheep and cows to be called this, and in some regions it is compulsory.

2. Bulgarian drivers are amongst the most courteous and competent drivers anywhere in the world, to give everyone else a chance they are prohibited from driving Formula 1.

3. The National costume of Bulgaria is the Shell suit, and you can often see this national costume proudly being worn in city streets, also towns and villages.

4. Rakia is in fact a soft drink, and doesn't taste at all like Domestos or any other form of household cleaner.

5. It is compulsory for all Bulgarian males over the age of 40 to wear a moustache

6. Many young women have a keen fashion sense, it is so acute that they do not even need a light to get dressed by.

7. Bulgarian men are able to provide help in almost all circumstances, but because they are shy they might need you to ask them first.

8. It is compulsory for anyone in authority, or indeed anyone who has to deal with the public, to have a sense of humour and lots of patience.

 9. Queuing is an art form here in Bulgaria, and queues could often be used instead of a ruler as they are so orderly.

10. Football is a gentlemanly game over here, with rival sets of fans mutually respecting each other

11. There is no wind in Bulgaria 

12. The word "Maestro" literally means anyone who can hold a hammer or chainsaw !!

13. The only insects that will not eat your plants and vegetables will try to eat you

14. Potholes do not grow overnight, they have to be carefully cultivated. Due to their impressive nature they are quite often exported

15. There is an abundant supply of roadside toilets for men, but they do seem to be invisible. These generous men that you often see at the side of roads are actually helping to maintain the water table.
16. The pungent smell of smoke in the village might not be a Bulgarian BBQ, but your local village entrepreneur burning the insulation off of cables to get at the copper core

17. Bulgarian mud could be the new Teflon, it refuses to stick to anything. Try it yourself by coating your best saucepan with it and see what happens.

18. Road signs are not for the benefit of motorists, they are put there for hunters to use as target practice

19. There might not be many recycling bins in Bulgaria, but the craze has picked up in a big way. You will often see people diving into bins to sort them out and recycle what they can before the bin lorries come along and empty them all into the same lorry

20. The 'young' ladies in the colourful costumes that you see at the side of busy roads are conducting traffic surveys. It seems likely that it might be something to do with the laden weight of lorries. Their costumes are bright so they often don't have to wear high visibility jackets.

21. Health and safety guidelines are observed on a daily basis, so there is no need to hide your eyes when you see someone working

22. The Bulgarian Governments are so good it is really difficult to vote them out!

23. You will often observe Bulgarians walking in the road, this is because even though pavements are provided they are there for decoration and to hold the road together. There are pavement police who will enforce a fine on anyone actually walking on a pavement.

24. Bulgarian football is so popular you have to buy your tickets many months in advance to insure a seat!
25. Bulgarian utility companies are so efficient that you will never get any breaks in supply

26. Bulgarians are so clear and precise in their spoken word that they never have to shout to be understood

27. On entering a large department store you are often assigned a personal shopper, they are there to carry all of your prospective purchases to the cash register. These are not to be confused with store security who diligently look after the smoking and coffee drinking area outside the store.

28. Bulgarian street signs, (stop, posted max speed, yield, etc) are gentle suggestions, and may be ignored altogether. (This is particularly true in Sofia.)

29. Those uniformed gentlemen in lay-bys? That machine they are using is only a hair dryer. Just put your foot on the gas and ignore them.

30. Bulgarian dogs are the most wonderful animals lovingly cared for and never neglected or abused in anyway, in fact a Bulgarian would rather throw away his Rakia then harm his dog (fortunately a dog's life is slowly getting better)

31. All Bulgarians are not vankers.....they just want you to come outside

32. Bulgarians respect stone and sand like a God, many monuments can be seen erected outside their homes to these deities

33. The National tree of Bulgaria is the carrier bag tree (Placius Bagius), it is widespread throughout the country and is often accompanied by it's Dwarf variety the carrier bag bush.

34. Anyone in the village who can repair things is called Raymond, and also anyone who cuts grass is called Trevor.

35. Each village has its own micro-climate, and it is therefore impossible to accurately predict the next day's weather. Owing to these micro-climates neighbouring villages will have totally different weather to each other

36. Bulgarian shops have invisible customers and staff, this allows the visible staff to stand outside the shop all day smoking and drinking coffee, and the shop still makes a profit

37.Only the Brits have their clocks 2 hours ahead of UK time. If a Bulgarian says that he will turn up at 2pm he will arrive at 4 but no one is sure about which day is meant

38. Men do you want to look like one of the locals? Then when you go to your local barber, you
can either go for the excedingly short crop or everyone's favourite, the mullet. Who said that fashion sense was dead :)

39. Even when you arrange for one of the big firms (such as a utility company) to do any work for you, remember you are expected to supply all tools and sundry items. In recognition of this they will only charge you a low price.

40. There is no jealousy between neighbours when it comes to wine making. Quite often they will host wine tasting evenings where they are highly complimentary about each other's efforts

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Baba Marta Has Arrived

Baba Marta
Today is one of my favourite Bulgarian celebrations. It is the celebration to welcome the coming of Spring and the waning of Winter. It is depicted by a cranky old lady called Baba Marta, or Grandmother Marta. Marta is a play on words for March, the month being called Mart in Bulgarian. Weather wise we find that it is quite similar to April in the UK, one day it can be brilliant sunshine and the next you can be confronted by all sorts of weather. I seem to remember something being said about in like a Lion and out like a Lamb. So the weather can be as contrary as an old lady, one day she can be all sweetness and light, but the next it could be like she has been on a diet of vinegar and lemons. Definitely not an old lady to mess with, and one who will keep you on your toes. Even today the weather is a bit dull and dreary, and we definitely had warmer weather in January and February. Even the fire is lit this afternoon, although that might not be solely down to the weather as we have both been a bit poorly these past few days.

One Version Of A Martenitsa For A House
On the 1st March Bulgarians exchange Martenitsi, and wish each other Chestita Baba Marta! The custom is to essentially wish each other good health, luck and happiness. When Baba Marta is smiling the sun shines and the weather is warm, but when cross, or her bunions are playing her up, the cold stays longer and it may even snow.

These Martenitsi are the red and white ornaments, made from twisted threads and are often worn around the wrist or neck, pinned to the left side of clothing, especially coats and jackets. You can even see them decorating house doors and hanging in vehicles, some people even buy them for their pets to wear. At this time of year there are many stalls selling these Martenitsi, but there are still those who prefer to do things the traditional way and will hand make them for their friends and family. The colours are quite significant, with white symbolising strength, purity and happiness, and the red with health, blood and fertility. As shown in this picture Snowdrops are quite often incorporated as they are often the first things flowering after winter.

Small Children Enjoying The Celebration

Quite often you will notice that a couple of figures are represented, and these are known as Pizho and Penda. Pizho is the male figure, and can be identified by being mainly white. As you might have deduced the mainly red figure is the female of the two, and is called Penda. Maybe it is a Bulgarian version of Yin and Yang, with all things being balanced out.

There are different schools of thinking, firstly there are those who feel that a Martenitsa can be thought of as an amulet and is used for protection against Baba Marta, whose mercurial temperament can cause unexpected misfortune. Baba Marta is thought to be gentler and more forgiving towards the person who is wearing a Martenitsa. Some feel that a Martenitsa can also be used for fortune telling or to encourage the desirable outcome of a wish. Some also believe that wearing a Martenitsa will also hasten the coming of Spring. I have to admit to being guilty to smiling when I see the Martenitsa stalls set up, it gives me a little lift thinking that soon the warmer weather will be back with us. Even though the daytime temperatures look to be holding quite steady, the night time temperatures are set to remain above zero.

Pizho and Penda Figures
The legends behind the Martenitsa are numerous, and many think that they date back to the founding of the first Bulgarian state in 681AD. Whatever the origins of this tradition it is one in which we happily partake.  It is such a popular tradition amongst Bulgarians that even those in foreign countries still observe it, and as Bulgarians venture further and further afield, more people are coming into contact with this wonderful custom. I am guessing that Bulgarians living abroad, will be faced with two choices. They will either get friends and family to send them out, or they will make their own. As those in say London are quite unlikely to see a Stork, perhaps they use the idea of blossom on a fruit tree. There were reports of Storks already having been sighted in Bulgaria, that was before the dip in temperatures. Maybe those without their thermals turned round and headed for slightly warmer climes for a couple of weeks.

A Different Way To Look At Things. Thank You Young Mr Sykes, Sir