Well not exactly a well, but we do now have water! It has been a long time to sort out but a real blessing and such a delight to just be able to turn on the tap, even if it is just outside for the moment…it certainly beats carrying water from the spring on a daily basis!!
And that’s not the only thing – our septic tank has arrived (Bertha), we have hand dug the hole for it to go in, well if I’m honest we half dug the hole for it to go in. Then in typical English woman style decided it was too piggin’ hot to be digging holes and drafted in some help from the locals…this should arrive Monday. This hole is not the only one we have to dig either (as if 2 x 2 x 2.1 is not bad enough) we have another that is 4 x 4 x 0.8 and a channel from the bathroom to the tank… yeah who said this was going to be easy!?
While I’ve been half doing a job, Dan has been working tirelessly alongside Ashim to firstly take down, then rebuild the barn wall and it is beginning to look like a wall again. Ashim is a great character, he carries all his tools to and from our house (a six kilometer round trip) on his bike…until one day his bike broke down so he turned up on another one with flat tyres…I’m not sure what was wrong with the first one but it must have been pretty terminal…so now he uses my bike until he can get his fixed…aparently at the weekend but this is Bulgaria so watch this space! Rebuilding the wall has been a delicate operation with the roof held up by agro-props and each stone carefully selected and shaped to fit the relevant position. The two guys have worked well together and next week I would anticipate us having a boundary wall again, which would be nice to feel secure again!!
That’s a laugh, religiously we have brought all the tools into the house and put the dogs in the room with them, locked the front gate and padlocked the house, only to find out today that the key to the main gate is apparently a key that everyone has and so anyone can just walk in…so after nine weeks we discover that we might as well leave it all open with a flashing neon sign to lead the guys to anything of any value…mind you they still have to get past our dogs (please anyone in the UK that knows our dogs … stop laughing now!!) At least they look and sound the part…
After five weeks of hassle we finally got a visit from the Electricity man who promptly asked for a bribe to hook up our electric within 3-4 days…and in true English woman style I told him to bugger off and find another mug to pay him… yeah right, after nine weeks with no electric and eight with no water I shook his hand and said just ‘do it’…they are coming on Tuesday to connect us…worth every penny!!
June seems to be the month to get things done, we are also expecting by the end of next week to take receipt of our new double glazed windows and doors, all with flyscreens to keep the little blighters out of our rooms. It has been an unusually bad year for mosquitos due to the crazy amount of rain we got in May, the place is so humid you’d think you were living in the tropics…you only have to step outside the door and you break into a sweat. The thunderstorms here are impressive though, the whole sky lights up, not just for a millisecond but for two or three seconds at a time and the thunder sounds like the sky is splitting apart…real weather!
As most of you know we have been showering (and bathing) at neighbours, in our garden or with friends in the next village, but June is also likely to provide us with our very own shower room – all the drainage system has gone in, the plasterboard is here on site along with more bags of cement than you can shake a stick at.
So this imminent we have been running around trying to buy a shower suite, which cost us all of about £70, a boiler and a log burning ‘do it all system’… the latter being the most difficult and requiring both some compromise and a repair to the Suzuki tyre…yes we got our first puncture on the side of the road having picked up a 10mm piece of metal and the spare wheel being more ornament than use…a local tyre man came out assessed the situation, picked up some tools, took the tyre away, mended it and refitted it…all for around £4.50 – yes we had to wait a while in stifling heat but it was better than calling out our friend all the way from Mihaltsi to come and rescue us…20kms away…surely we wouldn’t have done such a thing… I feel another meal at Stefan’s coming!! (please note I did turn him back once I’d found a tyre man…but still have him on speed dial LOL)
But away from the house renovations there has also been an extraordinary interest in Dan’s BMW – tonight being a case in point when the local shop keeper brought someone down (in a BMW) to look at it and go our for a spin…suitably impressed I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before more arrive at our door. There is a guy in the village nicknamed ‘The Baboon’ that tears around in his BMW that he keeps going with tie wraps, rivets and some sticky-backed plastic and apparently annoys the hell out of his neighbours by playing loud bassy music and spinning his wheels late at night. This same guy comes past our house, waves nicely, toots his horn and generally keeps both speed and decibels to a minimum around us…I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side though as I could end up with two Dan’s, which I’m sure everyone could understand is just one Dan too many 🙂
Tonight we have yet another Russian celebration, this one a little more personal as it is Helena’s birthday so the usual routine, Christine’s for a shower (what would we do without her) then next door to Tim and Helena’s for vast quantities of Vodka…thank God Sunday is a day of rest….
Till next time….
It has been a week of learning and achieving this week, which has been quite satisfying.
Kia has learnt that teaching the puppy how to play fight is leaving her with very little advantage over the little bugger and it won’t be long before she has to show him who’s boss properly. The pen has finally gone up in a temporary position, which they seem quite happy about… for now!
Hooch has finally learnt that if when asked for his paw he stands on the injured one and gives you the good one that you will be unlikely to believe him when he gives you sad eyes and holds it limply in the air for a sympathy vote… we think he is finally mended and took his final two stitches out this morning.
Dan has learnt that not all pipes lead to Rome and that digging for hours in the rain to trace a pipe down the back of our barn to the outside of our property, in all probability means that it runs directly into the river…apart from that now being illegal in our village and all villagers having signed an ‘Act’ to not send waste water into the river, it is also plainly disgusting!! So a septic tank will need to be built after all…meaning I have also learnt that the word ‘budget’ does not exist in the Bulgarian dictionary.
I also learnt that just because your bum fits in the kayak on dry land, getting out of it on water is not quite so simple…however I faired pretty well up and down our river for the first time in many many years…I’d forgotten how much fun it is and we have our first trial couple coming to have a go as soon as the weather picks up.
Talking of weather we had three days of continuous rain and thunderstorms so loud that we had to have the volume at 100 in the camper to be able to hear the tv. This also means that our lovely clean, clear river that we live next to turned into a raging muddy mess!
In terms of achievements we went out for our postponed dinner with Paul and Jan – great company, lovely food and more importantly we got to have a bath beforehand…YAY
The mini has arrived and fired up first time so must like this climate, work has nearly finished on the downstairs bathroom roof, we have a quote for the windows, which is only slightly over estimate. All in all productive and fun week.
As we had not moved very far from the house since we got here, we thought it was about time to explore this beautiful country, so while Paul cracked on with our new roof, his wife (Jan) and our mutual friend Chris took Dan and I to Emen Gorge.
Literally 5 mins in a car up the road is an Eco-trail, we parked up next to the reservoir and walked into the woods. It was a fabulous day weather-wise and we enjoyed the shade of the trees as we ascended towards the waterfall.
With all the rain we have had lately it was gushing with force over the ridge, churning up the water below and deafening its visitors, but it was still great for Kia to cool off in despite being a little too rough for swimming on this occasion…a great excuse to come back again another time!
We walked to the little village of Emen and enjoyed a couple of bottles of grapefruit beer (you have to try it to believe it) and a plate of chips and cheese before making the return journey via a slightly different route through the dappled sunlight of the woods.
Sunburnt shoulders, a very tired dog and smiles on our faces we returned home to find Paul had made good progress on the roof…result! And what’s more the fireflies are out tonight, what a perfect end to a relaxing day…
This has probably bee…n one of the hardest weeks of my life, I was seriously considering going back to work for a rest!!
Firstly the Friday night ‘thank you’ to Paul & Jan went a little out of the window as we all got invited to a Russian celebration in the village and collectively gave it the big thumbs up and promptly spent the evening in some lovely company, eating some fabulous food cooked up by Helena and drinking vast quantities of high quality vodka provided by Tim.
Not so hard you may think, but the next day things started to go down hill a little, not only was I nursing a very slight hangover but on one of my normal trips to the spring to collect water (no we haven’t sorted that out yet) I got attacked by two bees…one got caught in my hair the other in my jacket – and due to me inadvertently killing one of them, they called friends and chased us back into the house where we hid for a couple of hours until they calmed down. Said jacket is still hanging out on the wing mirror of the RV just in case 🙂
I didn’t get stung but couldn’t understand the motivation of the bees, having never had a problem before…needless to say I was now extremely nervous around them and as my neighbour has several hives it was becoming a real issue for both of us. We assumed it was because he was working in the hives and had agitated them but even considered moving house to somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no bloody bee keepers…yes seriously we considered this.
We spotted a lovely place in the mountains near Elena and went to have a look…not a hive in sight and with views to die for. The house was a little too small and the land not perfect, but the location was amazing with a river at the bottom of the garden, it was almost tempting until on the way back to the car I once again got attacked by a bee!!
OK so even the wild bees didn’t like me (or did) so it was definitely my problem not the local inhabitants…three attacks – one on Dan’s eye and two in my hair…common denominator? Perfume! Yes the only three times I have worn my perfume (FlowerBomb – DOH why didn’t I see that coming) were Vlodia’s birthday (the day before Dan’s eye incident), Tim & Helena’s VE celebrations (the day before my first attack) and to go and see the house in Elena…so smelly Jane it is from now on!!
Just to be on the safe side though we have now planted mint around our house, changed our shampoo and conditioner, sprayed Fendona everywhere and invested in the next fashion accessory to hit the catwalks in Musina…’the beekeeper’…you wait they’ll all be wearing them at the next Ascot outing.
So bees seemingly coped with we ordered our wood for the winter circa £110 for all our heating, hot water and cooking for the year not bad economics…it was due to arrive on Monday evening and in true Bulgarian style was delivered on Thursday morning! Our local Roma friend worked really hard all day chainsawing it into manageable sizes, whilst we moved it, split it and stacked it – well most of it anyway…still some to do next time we’re bored.
On the same day we had another delivery of our crap from England, including Dan’s BMW which raised some eyebrows amongst the locals…and we finally have sofas but of course nowhere to put them just yet…leko po leko as they say round here (little by little).
Today Diesel has been for his first round of injections and was a brave little man, seemingly quite enjoying the ride in the back of the jeep…our cherries are ripening well on our trees and the beans I planted last week are now abut 3 inches high, things really do grow round here.
Work starts on the roof on Monday (today) – rebuilding one part, renewing all the guttering and cementing ridge tiles and someone is popping by to give us a quote on the barn wall too, exciting stuff. Next is plumbing and drainage…couple of quotes in and we make an astounding discovery…a drainage pipe leading to a septic pit / soakaway…more investigation is needed before we invest in alternatives that take us over budget.
Well there’s no doubting that when things happen here they certainly happen. Firstly we engage an electrician to rewire the house and having looked at what we wanted arranged to come back a couple of days later to start the work…brilliant, only trouble was one room was completely clad from floor to ceiling in
pine including all the beams…to wire that room would be a nightmare so we got stuck in to remove it all, finding hundreds and hundreds of empty walnut shells behind all the wood – left by the previously resident mice! On the plus side we now have plenty of wood to fuel our new and improved cooker…
The room was 99% cleared when they arrived and cracked on with the work – three days later it was all complete – all we need now is some power from the street to the house and we’ll be rocking.
Whilst the guys were on site doing the electrics we got on with clearing the barn and down the side of the garage – one full of animal pens and the associated mess that comes with that and the other so over grown you couldn’t see the perimeter wall…hours and hours of chopping and lopping and digging and some brute force
and ignorance on the pens we had managed to see what we actually had – mostly a pile of used bricks and what turns out to be quite a nice barn.
It was during one of our brick cleaning sessions that our old boy Hooch took off across the garden and through the garage after a stray cat…there was the most awful yelp and running to the entrance I found him paw in the air, his leg split open from top to bottom with stringy ‘sinew’ hanging out (these turned out later to be veins). He was losing a lot of blood so I clamped his leg at the top and yelled to Dan for help. Being new here we had no idea where the vet was or even if they were open being a bank holiday weekend, but luckily for us Paul and Jan (our new best friends) were next door. They duly arrived and rang the vet in Veliko Tarnovo as we bundled our 45kg dog into the back of the Suzuki and rushed into town.
He was straight in and onto the operating table, put under and we were ushered out to come back in an hour…so off we trotted to the bar next door as it suddenly dawned on me I was wearing cement covered trousers, one and a half wellies and was covered in blood. The bar owner was just shutting up shop but re-opened just for us (I think he was too scared not to) – knowing Hooch was in good hands we did what anyone does in a crisis, ordered some beers and introduced ourselves to our saviours and as Jan said it certainly did away with any small talk!!
Hooch is now home and recovering well with 15-20 stiches in his leg, a dose of anti-biotics and a bill for 42 leva (around £20 – bargain) and needless to say this Friday we will be taking Paul and Jan out for dinner as a massive ‘thank you’.
Next job is a bit of roofing repairs and then plumbing and drainage, so in preparation we cleared an area in the garden for the septic tank, removing two plum trees in the process and began to clear the kitchen area to see what we had and discovered a rather nice brick laid floor and a hidden fireplace where my aga (Petchka) will go – another load of bricks to clean and mud to move but every cloud…
In amongst all the chaos we have discovered some rather funky fungi and managed to plant our first strawberries, lettuces and runner beans – a strange combination I grant you but not all our stuff is here yet and they are the only things we had…at least we’ll not starve LOL.
Tomorrow I start on the old sink and removing the kitchen ceiling so who knows what I’ll find!!
A very good friend of mine was talking of running a book on where we would break down on our way to Bulgaria…he really should have got it up and running as the choices were pretty much endless.
We left Derby at 9.30am on 7th April and by 10.30am near Kettering we were stationery in the inside lane of the M1 with no ignition in a 5 tonne automatic beast of a motorhome and it was 2.30pm before we were rescued thanks to the speedy responses of the AA. Despite some severe reservations about how far we would make it once the camper was repaired we finally made it onto the ferry at Dover at 2am on the 8th April, which works out at about 18 miles an hour…it was going to be a long drive!!
It was Belgium before we had to get the tool kit out again and tighten up the alternator belt…then pulling in for the night in Germany I lost any decent braking capability and steering and out came the trusty tools once again as we (well Dan) figured out the mechanic in the UK had put the adjuster in the wrong place and sorted out my belts again (this was to become a daily occurance).
It was just outside Vienna that my alternator belt decided to part company with the van luckily as we were just passing a parking spot so in we pulled and called ADAC who sent a very nice man with a selection of belts from which he chose one with a little (for that read alot) of help from Dan…fitted it at a cost of 15 euros and off we went again once Dan had also fixed a small fuel leek with silicon and electrical tape – stopping just before the Hungarian border.
Morning belt tightening complete we headed for Hungary – crossed in one shot and into Romania and stopped in a parking spot on the new road down to Timosoara due to the camper losing water…we were planning on spending the night until a Romanian truck driver advised us to move further down the road to a place better lit…so we took his advice. We were now running on petrol rather than LPG as every bloody country in europe has its own adaptor fitting for filling with gas and not one petrol station sold them…lessons learnt for any future travellers!!
We were nearly there and all we wanted was to make it into BG with both vehicles in one piece and we got our wish…until Krivodol when the transit recovery truck went over a bump and through out bits of bump stop rubber all over the street and sat sagging under its load at the edge of the road…ADAC once more to the rescue.
We were gutted as the little truck had not given us one problem all the way and now was in a non-fixable state as the cab and the bed were no longer connected (well not by much anyway). The recovery man tried to put it on his truck but it just wouldn’t lift it so we unloaded it in the rain and the dark and left it at the side of the road…poor thing.
We finally made it to Musina at 5.30am – 24 hrs after leaving Romania, tired but too tired to sleep so we started sorting stuff on the house and meeting the neighbours…we had no transport – little credit left on my phone – no money and rapidly running out of food.
Several people came to the rescue – Gemma Stevenson gave me some cash, which I transferred back to her via paypal (what a star) – the neighbours gave us bread, cakes, rakia, wine, cheese and eggs…they have very little but what they have they share.
Until we could get our jeep delivered we found an old oil drum which we used as a stove and heated water and cooked on that – very successfully I might add.
Then the day our jeep arrived Dan got stung by a bee and his eye swelled up so much he couldn’t see to drive – today Thursday the 24th April is the first day we have been able to leave the house 11 days after arriving.
In amongst all this a new pup, Diesel, arrived and was pretty much thrown into the mix with our two idiots and seems to have fitted in quite well considering… he is going to be enormous but at the moment is a shy, sweet natured little thing…long may that last!
Despite everything, this place is amazing – we have celebrated birthday’s with our Siberian neighbours, eaten dinner with our 83 yr old Bulgarian neighbour (Costa), been gifted bread and coloured, painted eggs from two of our Roma and Bulgarian friends and last night received a bag full of freshly picked salad from Bobbie an elderly Bulgarian lady, not to mention the offer of a shower from Christina our Scottish friend … which I may need to take her up on as I think people are beginning to smell us before they hear us.
Until next time….
This is my final week in the UK and this has been an emotional roller coaster. First giving up my corporate job that I have been in for nearly seven years, I’m probably not going to miss the early morning starts or the pressure to deliver, but I will certainly miss my colleagues, some of which have become life-long friends and many of which will just look on curiously to watch what we do…or at least I hope they do!
Then of course there’s my family and my friends and as I grew up in the Lake District we set off up North firstly stopping off at Fran’s, who lives in a beautiful spot on the estuary with a backdrop of the fells. We worked out that we have been friends for 45 years, which made us both feel so youthful (not) and spent a lovely couple of hours (not long enough) catching up, reminiscing and looking to the future before saying our farewells.
I had turned to social media to try and get everyone else together, a little nervous that no-one would turn up! But at 10am on a very cloudy and windy Saturday morning a group of us gathered at the base of Black Combe in Cumbria, some people I hadn’t seen since I left school, but they came anyway and I’m so glad they did.
We climbed the mountain despite a collective lack of fitness (one or two exceptions to this) in just under two hours and huddled behind the cairn at the top to shelter from the blustering and biting winds. We shared soup, passed between us by a stranger, sandwiches, gloves, crisps and best of all our memories. We toasted my leaving and raised a glass of champagne to my Mum whose ashes were scattered here back in 1988, I couldn’t wish for a better group of friends, even though I’m sure (like me) they had wished I’d scattered her ashes on the beach or somewhere a bit more accessible 🙂
On the way back home we called into my sister’s for dinner and to say our goodbyes, again we know they find it hard to see us go but I also know they understand why we are doing what we are doing and I thank them all for not making it any more difficult than it needs to be!
Next is Dan’s family, including his Grandma’s funeral, the most final of goodbyes so the emotion is not over yet, but the focus remains on the end game, Bulgaria here we come.
You plan and plan and it all seems very…well…under control! You know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, you have it organised down to the last detail – especially when, like me, planning is what you do for a living.
We were planning on buying a truck and doing two journey’s from the UK to BG with various stuff (or crap as most people see it), then out of the blue we got a call “can you fill half my truck” this week so I don’t make the journey half empty…well it would be rude not to in our position, so a radical re-plan was in order.
So we packed like we’d never packed before, filled my mini with as many boxes as we could (all three of them) and stacked the rest around it in the garage in preparation for the truck’s arrival, which of course was in the dark on the only day this winter that it has actually snowed.
Undeterred the mini was pushed onto the furniture truck and the boxes were stacked over it and around it, sofas, dining table, spare bed it all went in. Most of my friends reckon I have pushed this car further than I’ve driven it in the last few years and this was just another 1800 miles she was about to embark on – once again not under her own steam….I think they may have a point.
As Simon drove off into the blizzard we returned to the warmth of the house and quickly came to the realisation that we had nothing to sit on – yes I know I said I planned for a living … to be honest I have no idea how I’ve held down a sensible job for all these years!!
The point is this act of watching my mini and half our furniture leaving for our new home, suddenly made it all seem very very real… 🙂
How excited can one woman get about a large package! 🙂 Well let me stop you right there…I had not one but THREE large packages arrive at my door last month containing no less than 50 flexible solar panels – close your eyes and imagine me doing a little victory dance in our garden (actually you may want to skip that image)!
I had spent many months researching good old ‘google’ trying to understand solar technology and despite this, the only thing I’m pretty sure of is that I need a 5kw system to power our life so that is what I have bought…how I go about putting this all together, what inverter I need, how many batteries I need, which kind of charge controller I need is all going to be part of the growing pains. Or I could just ask Andy & Marie…or if there are any solar experts out there please don’t hesitate to get in touch – we’re not too proud to shout for HELP.
The other recent addition to our family is Cathy the Winnebago…named after the daughter of the lovely people we bought her off in Ireland. We figured that we would need somewhere to live whilst we renovated and this seemed the perfect way to stay on site and still be able to use it to tour the country once we’d finished using it as a house.
She is old (a bit like her owner), but we love her and she is so damn comfy and space enough for me, Dan and our two dogs (Kia & Hooch) who I’ve just realised I haven’t yet introduced…another day!
Considering her age, she has loads of equipment (again a bit like her owner LOL) but seriously the americans really know how to do camper vans (RVs), she roars like the V8 lion she is but is fully LPG converted with a full size fridge/freezer, 4 ring gas hob and oven, a bath (for a midget) and shower, toilet and beds for 6 people, airconditioning and everything and I mean everything works. I can’t wait to start the final journey behind the wheel…
The only thing that needs fixing before we set off is the alternator belt – so again a plea goes out to any yank motor mechanics out there that fancy a trip to our house to sort this out for us…it’s not a big job we just feel that if we are going to travel 1800 miles in her then she should really be fixed up by someone that knows what they’re doing (or can convince us that they do).
So that’s us all caught up, we’ll probably start packing in January so feel free to join us, there may be some stuff going cheap!!
After everything that has happened you may be asking yourselves why the hell do we want to go back to the country that has vandalised our property and stolen from us…. well the answer is simple! There are good and bad wherever you go (the UK is no exception), but what we have found in Bulgaria is a kindness and a welcome from people that have very little but are content with their lot.
Take our first house, when we arrived our garden was overgrown, we had no tools, we didn’t speak the language… yet in walked Nidelka.
This wonderful angel from next door, not only carrying tools but armed and ready to use them. Together we cleared the garden and had the cleanest outside loo that every existed and with a great view too.
This lady enlisted help from others in the village and soon we had a wonderful front garden, our grape vines were all tied up with ribbon ready for the summer and we learnt all about the medicinal properties of the various plants hidden in our hedgerows.
Not only were they welcoming and made us feel completely at home – but because we had very little with us and were essentially ‘camping’ in our own home for a couple of weeks, the group of ladies that had welcomed us also made us a little table and chairs, all hand covered and delivered with a plate full of cakes.
It was humbling to sit on hand made furniture, sharing cakes and lemonade in the sunshine with new found friends that we couldn’t even talk to. We may not have spoken the same language but we sure as hell didn’t need to, to understand friendship!
How could we turn our back on a country that had made us this welcome.
How could we turn our back on a country where you can buy a house, land and a view for the price of a second hand car in the UK.
How could we turn our back on a country where there are fresh water springs on every corner, where sustainable living is the norm (we could learn a lot from these guys), where the barter system is still alive and kicking, where there are stunning places to visit within a couple of miles of wherever you choose to locate.
Where this grows wild in the ‘streets’ 🙂 (PS: it is only hemp)
Look out Bulgaria … here we come!