Our Adventures

Life in Bulgaria is surprising, fulfilling, heartwarming and just a tiny bit frustrating at times.

Please read and enjoy our outlook on life in Eastern Europe as we work towards a more simple life….not always as simple as it seems!

The gate is open…come on in…

Word of the Week…

Ever thought of getting out of the rat-race and taking the plunge into a simpler life like we have? Can’t say I blame you and it’s easy, honestly you just have to make the choice and then plan!

He was left behind when my neighbour died, he moved in with us…

However if you are coming to Bulgaria there are another few adjectives that you may want to consider, like ‘patient’, ‘inventive’, ‘willing’ and ‘adaptable’.

It is the last word that comes into play frequently if you are thinking of taking early retirement, I mean Bulgaria is cheap but it is not free, so you have to be able to support yourself and your animals. You don’t have animals? You will have when you live here, even if you don’t want them, they just move in…(Picture – Exhibit A).

 

You will be living a self sufficient lifestyle so you don’t need to buy food…really?! Let me say we all have this intention, if not self sufficiency then at least a little more self reliance, but it takes time, even if you know exactly what you are doing and have years of experience, you will still need to adapt to Bulgaria.

Destroyed by a hailstorm in July 17

Undoubtedly the ground will need some TLC, the different bugs and diseases that will eat your produce or kill the roots will need understanding and the weather, don’t forget the weather… we have around a 60-70 degree shift in temperatures here from -28C in the winter to 40C in the summer and one hailstorm here can wipe out your whole crop or take out a lean-to roof…(Picture – Exhibit B)

A friend’s pig – Betty

But as long as you are adaptable, willing to try new things and learn how to preserve what you grow you will, no doubt, be able to support yourself, especially if you get yourself a few chucks or a pig or two.  You may have to think about fodder for your animals though, so consider the space and storage options for that too…or go vegan of course.

You may also be able to barter in the village for fresh honey (if you are a sugar taker), or oils and even alcohol, but with the animals come vet fees, inoculations, emergency treatment, worming, fleaing… Shelby (our husky cross) proved that last night as in my eagerness to get a head start on spring weeds, I scattered a heavy layer of salt around the edges of my raised beds and never gave it another thought.

Shelby recovering today 14-2-18

In what can only be described as ‘husky-wisdom’ he had followed me around clearing up the salt…not the best idea he has had and he has had some crackers I can tell you. One of which resulted in me spending a week poking my steroid creamed finger up his bum on a daily basis when he ate a pair of blue crocs as a pup (not sure why the colour was important…but it made it easy to identify when it came out the other end). I digress – we spent yesterday evening in the vets, sitting on a blood-stained, cold, tiled floor with Shelby on a drip. Fabulous out of hours treatment for less than a tenner – bargain…it costs me more than that to worm them!

Do you see where I’m going with this. This life is amazing, fulfilling, satisfying but also challenging, educational and sometimes good value for money and at others, unexpectedly expensive.

My lovely spicy marrow chutney…nearly all gone

The more eagle-eyed of my readers will have noticed a new page at the top of the site called ‘Profile’, it will not be of much interest in terms of its detail, but the ‘why’ may just explain why I’m focusing on ‘adaptable’ as the word of the week.

You see despite my very best intentions and efforts to do all of the above, I still need to earn money to pay the bills (I haven’t got around to installing solar yet), to pay the taxes (they don’t like to barter for a jar of chutney), to fuel my car and generally supplement the food I don’t, or have failed, to produce.

Fluctuations in exchange rates when you earn dollars or sterling severely affect your income, so I began working on building my editing and writing income to supplement the teaching I do. I have done a lot of writing and editing in the past, quite successfully, but I was amazed when I was offered the opportunity to edit a novel.

Grab a copy – it is seriously worth a read.

Check out Zatvor (which means Prison in Bulgarian) on Amazon – this is my affiliate link, but I actually edited this novel and know it inside and out and absolutely love it, it will change how you think about life on so many levels. I’m incredibly proud of the work I did on this book but also a little envious of the writer’s ability to tell a story…

Working on Zatvor changed how I viewed my work here too as it made me realise this is what I love to do, so much so it really didn’t feel like work at all. So in adapting to change I have found my vocation and have been offered two great new gigs that I’m so excited about, but I can’t talk about just yet. All I can say is I am getting back into motorsport and can’t wait to get started!

Today is Valentines Day or in Bulgaria better known as the Day of the Vines when the village get together and open up (and taste) the wine they made over the summer months, a great excuse for a party. Unfortunately we were unable to go, due to a certain husky, so the party came to us…food and cake kindly put to one side for us – this is why Bulgaria!

Happy Wine Day everyone….

Out with the old…

Well here we go again, a new year has started and I must say I am relieved. I mean we all cast out the old and ring in the new when we get to Jan 1st but I have never been more glad to see a new year in, in fact I’m usually in bed by 10 and barely flinch when the fireworks start.  This year I was up barking with the dogs and marveling at the coloured flashes as they exploded across the sky.  Well how can this year be any worse than last.

Seriously I’m not just talking personal stuff here, I’m still happily plodding along in my new life, largely oblivious to things going on around me, however some things are difficult to miss. 2017 provided a gigantic fruit salad of poo around the globe didn’t it.

Lets take a quick look!

The ‘majority’ of us (by that I mean the uneducated, mildly racist, easily-lead part of Britain) apparently voted to leave the European Union, the ramifications of which we (the educated, culturally-aware, well-informed part of Britain) are yet to fully understand.

Not to be outdone in the game of ‘our fuck-ups have to be bigger than yours’ the US then decided to inaugurate a Disney villain as President. Thank you America it helped to divert attention from the UK for a moment or two.

MacaroonsDespite these two disastrous decisions by the voting public (we really shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions without supervision), there is something even more worrying and that is the apparent ability for the French to take control of their own destiny. How scary is it that the one country we could rely on to make good quality, internationally recognised white material on a stick…are now the most respected European country left in the mix. (I promise a searched for a picture of Macron but….)

And to cap it all I don’t dare even comment on how handsome the new, dashing, young French President is in fear of being accused of sexual harassment. Is it just me that is a little tired of it all, I mean, I was OK until some one in their wisdom decided to ban grid girls. I know I said we should be allowed to make decisions without supervision but…really? Remind me, how much money have Saudi invested in F1 to make this happen? I digress…

Ok so enough about the world around us and more about my personal 2017. It doesn’t make any better reading as we decided it was going to be our year off….do not let me do that again! I wanted to see if I liked living here as well as working here and the answer is …meh…

Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but when the house isn’t finished all my brain can do is stack up jobs, create lists then stress because nothing is getting done.

I tried, I went out with friends (and embarrassed myself), I even went to the pool (and felt uncomfortable), I tried to put my efforts into a new business online (and wasted my precious time) and experimented with hydroponics …everything I tried just failed miserably, because it wasn’t what I came here to do…and I’m easily bored.

The only thing that worked really well were my raised beds, remember the things we built that looked like some sort of satanic alter, well they produced a great crop of everything this year…apart from peppers. I was gifted some pepper plants from a friend and they grew fabulously, they were green, healthy, tall and full of flowers, but not one, not one single pepper.

The peppers were the tip of the lettuce though as they were all eaten by some beastie too and I hope he is fumbling around somewhere feeling overweight and frumpy like I am, because he ate all my salad!

Then we come to the cars – we lost Betsie our trusty van and Dan’s source of income whilst out on a run, luckily not too far from home, and then I hit a wild boar on our way out to dinner in the Seat. Luckily we have a selection of cars to choose from, but of course none are legal, few are working and many are unfixable having been dismantled to fix others…so that is when Bertie the new van and Stan the new boar-beater joined the crew…good job we are building a big new garage to get these things fixed in hey.

Oh wait a minute, work has stopped, we have no room, the floor still needs digging out and levelling, then it needs concreting and we have gates to make and perimeter walls to build…stress, stress, winge, whine and so…

In amongst all this my Dad (whose 82) decides he might be superman after all and his failure was luckily discovered pretty quickly by his neighbours and he was whisked to hospital. Two broken vertebrae, a broken neck and another cracked vertebra in his neck, and a phone call to me to confirm a DNR (do not resuscitate) and a request to get back to the UK pronto.

Amazingly I am going back to the UK again in a couple of weeks and he will be home (with help, but home) so this is how I know that 2018 is going to be a good one, it doesn’t have to go far to improve on the last year but to save my relationship and to get my sanity (and body) back we are back to digging, building, creating and laughing for the foreseeable future.

East Meets West

Coming from the UK we are naturally, or maybe trained to be, nostalgic about all things….from places we visited as a child, to meals our mother used to make, but for those of us that drive I would like to bet that the majority of us feel some affection for our first car.

This is not something that our friends here in Bulgaria are big on and I’m not sure if this is sad or not. Having lived here for a number of years we see the old villages starting to empty as the older generation pass away and the younger generation make the move to the bright lights of the city for university, friends and careers.

This is sad because there are many houses left uncared for, but also great for us foreigners looking to change our way of life as there are still many bargains to be had.

It was one such Brit (Neil Penn), driven by a desire to remove himself from the rat-race and somewhat genetically programmed to be nostalgic, that had the unique idea of establishing a way that western travellers could explore eastern Europe in the most unforgettable manner.

It was this one man’s vision that was the catalyst for the creation of Classic Car Holidays, who offer the opportunity to see the Balkans… all from behind the wheel of a Trabant. Really this is a thing! Check it out here www.classiccarholidays.co.uk

So when my friend that works in PR and Marketing in Motorsport came to visit, it was an event not to be missed. We booked a ‘Try a Trabie’ with Neil and abandoned our modern hire car in favour of something very different.

Travelling at a slower pace, but with a certain amount of zip, Neil was great at demonstrating the foibles of the old East German built machine. With column gear changes and offset pedals it was an experience that not many have had and we will certainly not forget.

The Bulgarian countryside is something to be treasured and too many of us (myself included) miss things as we whizz by so busy with our lives. To really benefit from this experience you have to change your perception of what travel is about.

Touring the Balkans is just as much about the journey as the destination and with two clients that have a racing past it was definitely a challenge not to accelerate out of the corners and down the straights, moving up the gears in quick succession, but to relax, put your arm on the window, look at your surroundings and let the engine take you to your next pit stop.

Our little car was ‘Colonel Mustard’, one of eight cars run by CCH and in true nostalgic style, Neil told stories about how these cars were owned by doctors and the like to service the community and as we pootled around the lanes we learnt a whole new respect for this little car and a whole new way to time travel.

If anyone out there has visiting Bulgaria, Romania or Macedonia on their bucket list then you really should come and try this, and if you have never thought of visiting then think again…even if it is just to drive this iconic piece of history and be surprised at what else these countries have to offer.

You will not be disappointed.

Cold Turkey

anti-facebookNo this is not the story of what we did with all that turkey post Christmas, or about me stopping class A drugs, but rather about my radical decision to spend an entire week without going on Facebook. If anyone had asked me, prior to this experiment, what that would be like, I’d have shrugged my shoulders and said ‘no issues, I don’t spend that much time on there anyway’.

Well that is not quite true! By not going on Facebook this week I have noticed a couple of things:
1. Just how much time I actually spent on there and
2. Just how hard it would be not to…

I documented each day to understand how this affected me and so I would realise just how much of an addiction this had become, this is the story of my week living outside of social media.

Day 1

DSCF5821My old routine of logging into the ‘world’ first thing in a morning became blatantly obvious as I switched between pacing the floor and staring blankly at the Google search bar wondering what else this amazing internet could offer to pass my time. I was inexplicably attracted to the weather forecast although I could plainly see that it was snowing even though according to Accuweather it wasn’t. For some reason I get an insane pleasure from trying to catch it out, although if I’m honest it is rarely right so it is not really much of a challenge.

Time for another coffee….Dan surfaces and begins the day by informing me what is going on on Facebook which kind of defeats the object, so I have to ask him to stop and I go to water my plants, something I haven’t done in weeks and it shows…woops.

DSCF5730Then I remembered why I was doing this in the first place…to get this wasted time back. So I turned to my list, and began emptying my kitchen cupboards, which meant I felt obliged then to clean inside them (another thing I discovered I had not done for sometime…if DSCF5810ever), and removed them from the wall in order install my new splash-back. For those of you in Facebook world this was ‘Tick 6’ and I think it looks pretty funky and such a cheap method of tidying up the area.

As luck would have it this job didn’t take as long as I thought so I was soon back to twiddling my thumbs in front of the laptop. What on earth did I do before Facebook? I took the opportunity to clean up my formulas in my teaching tracker, something I’d been meaning to do for 6 months at least. I emailed a few friends to touch base as I felt unusually disconnected.

It felt strange today, I had to physically stop myself from just checking in … but I didn’t and I didn’t cease to exist because of it….although part of me feels like I did, maybe because I know that others are swapping stories and pictures of their day whilst I just did my stuff and nobody knows what….a strangely disconcerting concept – maybe tomorrow will feel better.

Day 2

chess2Despite my best efforts, today was just ‘one of those days’ when I just had to login. My friend and neighbour, Shirley, passed away yesterday in France and I had to let people in the village know. For all it’s faults, Facebook is great for getting messages to people quickly. This was such a sad event, but I was comforted by her messages the previous week. I had re-homed her beloved cat for her, for which she was so grateful and I had agreed to scatter her ashes according to her wishes, she was then happy that everything was in place to allow her to pass peacefully. So that is what we must do, so having passed on the information I withdrew once again from Facebook.

DSCF5796Being away from the medium of Messenger meant I had to actually gather some stuff together to help out my friend who had not been feeling too great but was finally up for some company, so I walked across the village in the snow carrying a heater and a silicon gun. It was lovely, fresh falling snow, the silence you only get when it is actually snowing and that special tinge of light in the sky, a kind of pink that says…there is more on its way.

DSCF5814On my return I felt pumped, determined and decided it was time to stop being a wuss and brave the camper to remove the wasps nests. Of course they are all dead at this time of year but it didn’t stop my heart from beating at twice the normal rate during the operation of unscrewing vent covers to pick out the nests, bag them and remove them from site…but I did it so this is ‘Tick 7’.

Day 3

DSCF5830So  many nice snow pictures and I can’t  do anything with them, I guess it is time to mention I dropped my smartphone down the toilet so I don’t even have any instagram…aggghhh…the urge to tell everyone about it is immense, but why, does anyone even care…are my pictures any better than anyone elses? Of course not, they are better to me because they show my life, my village, my dogs, my views and I’ve already seen them so why such a desire to share them? I can’t answer this but I do know that making these notes helped to stiffen my resolve.

DSCF5826It also helped that due to very low temperatures last night our water pipes froze (I forgot to leave the tap dripping DSCF5827overnight) and so I never really noticed the lack of Facebook as we were too busy defrosting snow in the kettle, hanging up a bottle of spring water to de-ice because we’d left it in the car, stocking up the wood piles and topping up fresh bottles from the spring.

DSCF5835This may seem like lots of hard work but it was a gorgeous day – beautiful scenery and we got dragged in by our neighbours for food and beer…my face was still glowing hours later as their house was so hot.

Then it was off to visit my Russian neighbours before they departed on holiday….how did I ever have time for Facebook LOL (that LOL was deliberate by the way…just to show  I miss it just a little).

Got some more stuff done that was long overdue – logged all future booked work in the van and sorted out my password list. I felt much more in control …oh and ‘Tick 8’ today as the picture finally went up in the lounge.

Day 4

IMG_20170109_111948Sitting for three hours in a freezing office to try and resolve some classroom issues with technical support (based in Thailand so considerably more comfortable) tends to take your mind off social media…currently -15C outside and not many degrees warmer in the office space.

Cold water has finally come back as Dan spent about the same amount of time with a heat gun on the pipes in our small bathroom…still no hot water yet so I still smell…and somehow I managed to trap a nerve in my shoulder whilst sleeping, so took some time out to sit and watch some crap TV – and organize these notes. We are now watching Designated Survivor and so far so good.

I had a lesson with a regular student early this evening so I lit the fire up there so I didn’t suffer for another hour.  My desire for a bath right now far outweighs my desire to log on to Facebook…it is all about priorities.

Day 5

What should have been a nice day in Vt with my long suffering friend turned into me being held hostage in Technomarket (the Bulgarian equivalent to Curries) for nearly an hour while they decided whether to give me a refund on a set of headphones I had purchased. Eventually I got a considered and ‘polite’ decision of ‘voucher or nothing’…I took the voucher and then proceeded to just miss my friend in every shop we went to, until it was time to come home.

I do now have a new phone though, so lets see how long I can keep this one alive.

DSCF5836We still have no hot water, yet temperatures have been well above freezing today with bags of sunshine and melting snow, frustrating!

Dan has changed the diff on his BMW back to the welded variety and I have acquired a new clutch for Brian (my lada) so at some point I may well be mobile again.

Friday the 13th pfft…

Day 6

DSCF5829I had an early night last night to try and be fresh for today’s teaching…however my hot water had other ideas. At 4am the bath suddenly spurted into life as I’d left the tap open in a desperate bid to try and convince it to give me some water…then of course my ‘worry-brain’ kicked in and I had to throw on a sexy pair of wellies and a coat and check out the other taps downstairs just in case we had left these running too….we hadn’t, but that was the end of sleep for me so lit the fires and got myself a coffee and made some notes in preparation for today’s lessons.

I got two pieces of good news today, I got a Christmas card from my best friend in the UK who plainly needs to organise herself a bit better and my sister finally got connected to Whatsapp – this will change my life. Currently I ring her weekly standing up the hill in all weathers as we don’t have signal at home and she was still living in 1976. Now I can call her and stay warm….the best present yet.

This ironically got  me thinking about a post I saw on Facebook a little while ago, in the run up to the new year, where the suggestion was to take a jar and put a note in of any good things that happen. Then at the end of the year, no matter how hard it has been, you can empty the jar and remember the good times.

So I took a note of all the good things that happened this week and got to 11 before I stopped noting them down…I think I’m going to need a bigger jar…unless that is we can remove one every time something goes a little awry….it turns out the microphone on my new phone doesn’t want to work in Whatsapp so it looks like I’ll be back to freezing my extremities off in the snow. I will try again tomorrow.

Day 7

hoorayRight this is my final day away from Facebook and to be honest the weekends are not usually such an issue as I work anyway and only rarely would  have time to check in ….today I won’t be checking in, but I am strangely excited about getting back out into the cyber world of my friends and acquaintances across the globe, but also there is a weird sense of dread. Not because of what I have missed as I’m sure I’ll soon catch up on that, but of what people will think of me.

Do they think I have been rude for not responding to their messages, has anyone ‘unfriended’ me, or spoken ill of me, well I guess only time will tell and as I sit here in the real world I am unaware of any of these things, they are not affecting my life now, so why should they be allowed to influence my life once I return to Facebook.

Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.
Maybe ignorance is bliss.
Maybe I will care slightly less.

Dreams

DSCF5362Isn’t amazing how different we all are. One person’s dream is another’s nightmare. But and here’s the thing, we all have dreams, ambitions, fantasies, call them what you will, but we all strive to be somewhere different, doing something differently, but few of us think about what it will take to get there and interestingly not many (if any) of us consider what it will actually be like once we arrive at our destination.

I certainly didn’t!

21. Our villageOh yes I was more planned than most – that’s what I do…planning…I drive people crazy with it, but it’s what makes me, me. But what I didn’t do was think about what it would actually be like. I travelled through the country and looked at what seems to be a million houses to decide which one fitted the bill (by the way I bought three that didn’t) and this is where I ended up…but I didn’t talk to people living here to ask about the place, no, I just drove though this village one day and stated ‘this is where I want to live’ and so live here we do!!

DSCF3437I had great plans before I left the UK – we were going to offer adventure holidays, maybe team up with someone who did something similar that we didn’t offer, to help promote both our businesses. We brought our go-karts, our kayaks, pottery wheels, soap and candle making equipment and know how…we had such great plans to run workshops and outings to make people’s holidays something to remember, but we needed to make the house and gardens inviting and habitable first….and this is where we had to be both adaptable and patient.

DSCF5053Unlike many out here we are not pensionable age, we do not have a static income so we have to make our own way and do most things for ourselves, as although things out here are cheap, they are not free.  This is our little piece of paradise, but it has taken a lot of blood and sweat to get to the point DSCF5377where we are now, please note I didn’t say tears as these were notable in their absence – but if you want to live differently or change your life so dramatically then you have to be prepared to work hard for it.

DSCF5447But we didn’t do it all by ourselves, we have had help from some people and great advice from others. We have met some wonderful characters and travelled most of the country delivering people’s treasured possessions.

IMG_20160930_143300I go to bed every night with aching muscles, I roll out of bed in the morning groaning and stretching to motivate myself for the day ahead, but everything I do, I do for us, for our new life. It is invigorating, frustrating and oh so tiring but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Even though I do utter the immortal words ‘I’m too old for this sh*t’ on an almost daily basis….

DSCF5258I say to friends. ‘Why struggle so hard’, ‘why work such long hours just to pay your bills’, ‘you can do this too, this is freedom’…but as I said at the beginning, this is my dream and I am so very lucky to have someone to share it with as I am starting to understand that this is not everyone’s dream, in fact for those dreaming of wealth, fancy houses and yachts and parties where the elite rub shoulders, this would be their worst nightmare.

horses3The only shoulders I rub along with at parties are three legged chihuahuas,  immigrant horses and a whole host of insects and rodents that I’d rather not meet…oh and the occasional new human I’ve decided to interact with…and who incidentally drives the organised, planner in me absolutely bloody crazy…but I love her!

DSCF5277Well after all this hard work and the mad ‘Sybil Fawltyesque’ decision to take the barn down and move it a little to the left, we have taken another momentous decision…next April we will stop! Yes that’s right this woman that found life here too slow, that couldn’t switch off from the pressurised career of herding cats, is finally going to find out if she actually likes living here as well as working here. In April we will have been here three years, and we both think that’s quite long enough. It is time to start enjoying our choices.

DSCF5413We have taken a broken house and fixed it to the best of our ability, we have a comfortable lounge, dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a shower room. We have taken down a garage and a stone barn piece by piece and will have built a new garage. Of course there is still more to do – I want a craft studio, an office to teach from (that let’s me feel like I’m still outside not locked in an office), a roof terrace, a natural pool, a sauna, an outdoor cob oven, some internal stairs and a number of different smaller projects…but they can wait. First we are taking a break.

5954259oI’m sure there will be a book run on how long it will take me to get bored, but I warn you I have a long list of fun stuff to do, so much so it may not look like I’m taking any time off at all…one of those things involves an old lady Lada called Brian. Yes that’s right a girl called Brian. She was born in 1979 and has lived all her life with one family…until now, now she will be my companion while we explore the country we have chosen to call home.

DSCF5339So if you are thinking of visiting us, I think 2017 may be the year to do it and if you are thinking of changing your life (however that may be) then there is never a better time than now. I came across a great quote on the internet (of course) that you should listen to…’don’t be defined by your past…make a brand new ending!’

A Positive Spin

These last couple of weeks I’ve been on my own so I’ve had TV on in the background while I’ve been working to keep me company (or drown out the barking dogs)… One thing I’ve noticed is how depressing the news is and how it is always ‘bad’ news. The obvious reason for this is that ‘good’ news doesn’t pay, but then I thought maybe there are two sides to every story so I started looking closer to home…and this is what I found!

Dilbert and PennyThis week I have lost two chickens to our local fox. One of our chickens was sitting on 5 eggs and the fox took these too. Now whilst this may be annoying for me and pretty disasterous for the chickens, there are however some very well fed and cared for fox cubs enjoying fresh chicken and protein this spring…and I have less chickens to feed.

So it got me thinking, for every bad story there is a good story alongside it, it all depends on perspective and it does require a bit more detachment from the emotional involvement. So I thought it might be a good idea to see things from another view point and try to put out some good news each month…read at your peril.

So let me start by saying that I am not going to go into contentious issues like Big Ben’s lack of bongs, or doctors striking to get a bit of a rest or global warming or the UK referendum on the EU..although as an aside does Brexit mean we don’t have to suffer coming last in Eurovision anymore and having to pretend it’s because ‘people hate us’ and can just accept at long last that our songs were crap!! No I’m going to keep it local and personal (or try)…

DSCF4822So since Dan went to England where it rains for 90% of the year, it has done nothing but rain here – it’s like he pinched my sun and took it with him to give the poor Brits a taste of what they could’ve won. Meanwhile I have been permanently dressed in wellies and a silly hat, one and half wellies to be fair as one of them was eaten by Kia 4 years ago and I still haven’t replaced them. Actually I lie, I did buy a new pair and they were unceremoniously cut up to act as rubber washers when bolting the new roof to the dog pen this spring….while I was out somewhere….say no more! So where is the good news I hear you cry… well in the three weeks he’s been gone I haven’t had to water the garden once, I  must have saved myself a fortune in water rates (at least 10 leva by my calculations) which means I must be nearly able to afford those new wellies.

DSCF4873Also for those of you fortunate enough to live in this incredible country, and clever enough not to go out in the garden when it rains, we are not all that clever. For those of you that don’t live here or have never had the pleasure of Bulgarian mud, well it is sticky and that is putting it lightly so after running around the land pulling things under cover to save them from the downpour I can now say I have finally achieved my teenage dream of being the required 5’10” of a catwalk model. This may however be the only grade I make….

DSCF4832So did I mention he’d left me on my own for three weeks – three weeks I tell you, so I’ve knuckled down and worked my socks off finishing off the lounge-dining room for when he gets back, only to DSCF4874come down one morning and find the fridge light didn’t come on when I DSCF4861opened the door….I did the thing of opening and shutting it a few times, waggled the little lever that does the business, to no avail…for a little while there was stunned, exhausted, infuriated silence and a couple of coffees while I thought of a plan.

I have a little beer fridge so I emptied the important stuff into the little fridge and threw some not so important (for that read I’ll make something out of it one day stuff) into the bin and the frozen stuff into the chest freezer. Job done…only although in my head I’d already picked out and chosen a new fridge and mentally placed it in a different location in the kitchen…I still couldn’t resist trying to find out why it had stopped.

What I found was the wire had been chewed through in two places…which renewed my frustration about the rats getting into my kitchen and by now I was jumping up and down holding a plug with 5 inches of flex attached to it shouting …’why don’t they die’….over and over again. It’s a good job I don’t have any neighbours but seriously if I chewed through a 220w cable I’m sure I’d be at least tingling 🙂

DSCF4887Anyway getting to the good news, I managed to fix the cable so I now had a clean, uncluttered working fridge and had renewed my passion for rat catching. It is a great sport if you have time and patience, I  have neither but I do have a DSCF4877Shelby – he caught two in quick succession and I caught one in my rat cage…I know there’s more somewhere but they are playing hard to get but to quote the great John Goodman as Delbert McClintock in Arachnaphobia “would anyone mind if I tore this floor out” ….

Bucket List

DSCF4675I came across a friend’s post on Facebook a while back that got me thinking. It was a list of interesting places to visit, incredible events to attend and extreme things to achieve and the idea was you went through the list and ticked off what you had done and what was left was your bucket list …to do before you die.

DSCF4676I’m not usually so obedient but thought it would be interesting to see what I’d done and what I had left to do…. Now when you take these sort of tests you can be left feeling two things: 1) Excitement for all the things left to do in the world or 2) Disappointed at not having done that much with your (in my case) 50 years on this earth. That is if you let the internet dictate how you feel about yourself…I don’t, I just don’t…so I started thinking of some of the things I’d done.

locostI have show-jumped in Europe (and won), I have learnt a new language, travelled to five out of seven continents, I have raced cars at most of the major tracks in the UK, have drunk champagne in the pits with famous race drivers, had media access at Le Mans for several years, worked as a DJ in a club, been to a baseball match in the states, climbed all of the mountains in the Lake District, hitch-hiked to the Isle of Skye, learnt to ski in Canada, driven a team of huskies across the arctic circle, scuba dived in exotic places, swum with dolphins in Australia and turtles in Barbados, played basketball in the World Corporate Games at Chrystal Palace, climbed Sigiriya, seen the Exmoor beast, rounded up sheep on horseback, seen some really good bands live in concert and some rubbish ones too and I’m sure many other things that I forget …but you see I  have lived, I have done a lot (not all of them well) and yes there are still things I’d like to do but …

DSCF4572I arrived in Bulgaria two years ago this Wednesday and now I’m not limited to the four weeks a year prescribed holiday and can (if I wanted) go anywhere, anytime I want, I find myself finding more and more reasons to stay home.  There is a contentment to be found in the dust of my house, in the muddy garden that is out of control, in the crumbling outbuildings, the biting insects, the aching DSCF4661muscles, the nosey neighbours that don’t understand I am still learning their language, the vegetables that seem to need different soil to the abundant weeds that grow so rampantly, the scorching heat, the snapping cold, the power cuts and lack of gravy granules.

DSCF4561It just depends how you look at life, I have a vision for my house so in time the dust will not matter, I will take control of the garden and rebuild the outbuildings, the insects will become less as the garden is not so wild, my muscles will train to DSCF4719take the activities I throw at them, my neighbours will become my friends as I learn to converse with them more effectively and they will teach me how to tend to my vegetables so they out grow my weeds and the weather….well I love the four wonderful seasons we get out here and the spectacular thunder storms that mean we  have to live without facilities for a while.

This is paradise waiting to  happen….except the gravy granules, I’m not sure I’ll ever learn to live without gravy granules!!

So back to the online bucket list, there were things like – ride in a hot air balloon, sky diving, visit the Great Wall of China, go to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans…you get the idea. Out of 100 items I’d done about 10 and the others, although could be fun, are not really something I feel I MUST do before I die.

DSCF4729Heaven forbid I kick the bucket tomorrow, but if I do you can be safe in the knowledge that I’ve had fun and I’ve found my bucket…it is here in my garbage ridden garden, it has a hole in the bottom where I’ve planted something in the past and one of the dogs has chewed off the handle….but it’s my bucket and I’m happy I found it.

Reflection

I think the question I get asked the most out here, by other expats, those thinking about moving here and the Bulgarians themselves is, why Bulgaria. My answer is probably very similar to everyone else’s, ‘because I always wanted a house in France’.

DSCF3430This is the truth, since returning to the UK in 1989 from Belgium, I always wanted to go back across the channel and Provence had a wildness about it that appealed to my nature, but then it became popular and out of my price range. So I saved a little more and the French just kept putting their prices up, it was like they were trying to tell me something and despite my belligerent nature, eventually I listened and looked further afield.

sicilyWe found Sicily and fell in love with it, we bought a cheap do-er-upper and had a good friend and French architect complete the renovations for us, only to find that while we’d been busy plastering, painting and cramming a MkI Mondeo full of furniture, the Italians had cottoned on to the South of the island and suddenly the cost of living might as well have been in Kensington.

So on the search went for somewhere we could afford to live as well as buy…voila…Bulgaria. So you see the reason we are here at all is because the French didn’t want us and we couldn’t afford the Italians.

I did do some research on costs out here and estimated what we would need annually to survive and sparks started to fly about what we could do to make this a reality. You see most people that emigrate either do so on a corporate contract or are on a nice little pension, we had neither. So the result was we brought our imaginations, our willingness to work hard and adapt to the situation, packed up all our worldly goods (and a great deal of crap) and well here we are!

DSCF3375The ‘pot’ is not bottomless, in fact you could paddle in it, but we are doing most of the renovations ourselves where possible and learning so much about ourselves in the process. We have had some help, Barry rewired our house, Paul build us a little shower room while we dug our own septic tank hole and drainage trenches, Richard supplied our septic tank with instructions and support and a local guy built our barn wall for us …the less said about that the better!!

But the point is Dan has built floor frames and laid floor boards, rendered walls, built walls, fenced, dug holes, concreted floors, built a chicken coop, fitted a kitchen and I have plumbed in hot and cold water and central heating, laid a stone floor in our kitchen, tiled, painted, designed stuff, planned stuff, mixed 100s of barrows of cement by hand, fought off marauding ants, sanded, stained and varnished till I was high and all this cost us just the materials and a bit of imagination and effort.

DSCF4132Oh and we have so many more things to learn, the garden being the biggest challenge for me. We have the land I always craved, we have the opportunity to provide most of our food for ourselves, but have little to no knowledge on where the hell to start. This year I will be focusing more attention on learning these skills, how, what and how much to grow, when to plant and how the hell to use all the bounty I hope to harvest.

DSCF3812Then there’s the language. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in a bit more to learning that. A garage to build, a sauna and cob oven to design and build out of alternate materials, a terrace, a natural pool….everyday I look at this site that we chose to  move to and my head burst with ideas, sometimes these have to flex and change as other’s ideas are added to the pot or roadblocks are put in your way, but this is just part of the excitement.

DSCF3769It hasn’t all been sweetness and light though, we have lost some treasured members of our family and new ones have joined us in the madhouse, but this is life and I’m just glad I came and found it instead of waiting for it to find me.

A friend recently said ‘to be honest I thought you’d be back by now, but your resourcefulness knows no bounds’. When we left England I was the gorgea Project Manager and Dan was a forklift driver so if we can do this so can you! It’s not clever, it’s not brave, it’s not even resourceful, it is just seeing that life is not infinite and sometimes taking a chance to get the kind of life you want is the right thing to do. Succeed or fail, either is better than regretting not trying!

You see the question should not be ‘why Bulgaria’ but more ‘why now’…that would get quite a different response!

They said…

DSCF4028Have chickens they said, chickens are easy they said, fresh eggs they said…

They, whoever ‘they’ are may be need to tweak their enthusiasm somewhat so that I can manage my own expectations sensibly!

DSCF3793Yes I love my chooks, I have named them all for goodness sake…some of them twice, but that’s another story…and I have to admit that on the whole they are pretty damn simple most of the time, but they do have their moments too!

Charlotte, aka Charlie, aka Christmas!
Charlotte, aka Charlie, aka Christmas!

And EGGS…well I’m still buying them from the local farm shop so you work it out. Some of this lack of egg production I must admit comes from the fact that Charlotte and Delia have now officially been renamed Charlie and

Delia aka Dilburt
Delia aka Dilburt

Dilburt after they were caught having a right old ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ one morning…I guess I’ll wait a while for some double yolkers from them.

I also have some doubts about Amelia and Babs who if not cocks, they are awfully butch ladies with lesbian tendencies.  It is only a matter of time before they become Alan and Brian (after my friend at The Real Housewife of Snohomish County).

And then of course comes the time when they get a bit fatter and I have to get out my traffic cone and broom handle…I’m hoping no more detail than that is required by my switched on audience. I was hoping for Easter roasts, but it looks like Christmas may claim one as I’m not sure they’ll all make it through winter without calling each other outside for a fight.

Alice
Alice

The good news is Alice, Jojo and Penny are still my girls, but its about time they started earning their keep. They are a

Penny
Penny

talking point though as they free range around the walnut grove and as the lady up the road picks her walnuts she chats to them and they ‘chuckle’ back.

 

A local puppy scattered them far and wide the other day and the locals all delivered them back, one by one. Since starting this blog Jojo has now been claimed by said puppy so I was then  down to six, then said ‘walnut’ lady asked if I would swap a cockerel for a hen of hers…I readily agreed and the newly named Alan went to a new home up the road and Rachel joined the flock…

DSCF3753Alan has stayed happily in his new home, whilst Rachel too has returned to her old home…several times! I have now been offered four smaller hens in springtime in repayment for Alan…great more chickens to name…twice 🙂

One day we found a random chicken in our front garden, we caught it and passed it to some random passing children with the Bulgarian phrase, “this is not my chicken” – try finding that in a phrase book…I think you’ll be looking a while…amazing what you learn keeping chickens!

So get chickens they said, fresh eggs they said, they’re easy they said – I say get chickens, they are hilarious, fun, with or without eggs and yes they may be easy but never uneventful!

Chickens the gateway drug to bigger animals ….