Lost keys, soothsayer and a locksmith!

One warm and sunny morning towards the end of April, Ed and I decided to take the dogs on a long walk across the fields and Mum said she would take her two out as well but on a shorter walk.  I suggested that she should take the house key as she would be back before us.  Armed with thermal cups full of tea and bottle of water and a bowl for the dogs, we set off.  It was a lovely, warm day and despite the early hour, (alright perhaps not that early 0930) the temperature was already reaching the high teens, a gentle breeze kept us and the dogs from feeling too hot.  The air was full of birdsong, nightingales, cuckoos, and sparrows all singing their  hearts out and the local cockerels, not to be out done, were adding their voices as well!  Swallows were sweeping down over the brilliant yellow fields of rape imageand the wind was rustling gently over the fields of barley (or possible wheat, not sure which! Lol) and through the trees.  We walked along chatting amiably, stopping frequently to soak in the views and on one occasion to watch a bird of prey glide over us and away over the fields.  We thanked our lucky stars that we were able to live in such a tranquil and beautiful country and that we no longer had to battle commuter traffic on the M6, me heading south and Ed north, to get to our respective places of work. 😊

About half way round I had a strange thought that giving mum the key might not have been a wise, I shrugged it off and thought no more of it until we got home.  Mum was sat in the garden looking pale and worried “I’ve lost the key, I’m so sorry” she said.  No matter, we chorused we will retrace your steps and hopefully find it.  Thankfully, she hadn’t thought to lock the patio doors, so we could still access the house! 😅  Jorgie, our neighbour and who also looks after the house for the landlord, came by on his horse cart and stopped at the gate to ask how we were and to pass the time of day, he in Bulgarian and us in English!  We asked him if he had a spare key, (our miming skills are getting very good! hehe) he shook his head but indicated he would look to see if he had one that might fit.

A few minutes later Ed and I set of walking very slowly to retrace Mums steps.  When we were about 200 metres beyond Jorgie’s house he called to us and we when turned to look at him he gesticulated for us to turn back.  Ed, nominated me to go back and said he would continue looking.  I headed back to Jorgie who held up to 2 keys which he thought might fit, sadly neither did.  We walked back up the lane and I said I had to catch up with Ed.  “Yes,yes” he said in Bulgarian, “moment, I’ll take you in the car”. “Oh! Ok, thanks” I beamed back at him 😄 He backed his ancient merc out of his drive and we set of in the direction that Ed had taken, at the next junction I indicated that Ed had turned left to which he replied “da, da” and something about seeing a Baba (elderly woman) first, puzzled I sat back.  “Magara” he said pointing out a donkey, “Margara, donkey” I dutifully replied.  He grinned at me and simply said “da”.  We pulled up outside a house and he indicated for me to get out and wait.  He opened the gate and called out to the owners, a lady appeared, Jorgie asked her something and she agreed and Jorgie indicated for me to follow him in.  The lady in the meantime had called out something to her husband who appeared holding a small pottery jug.  Ah, I thought, perhaps for some reason she may have key?  She indicated that we should sit, Jorgie chatted away in Bulgarian and mentioned my name, she turned and smiled at me and took my hand.  She then proceeded to empty out a load of beans on to the table, I had absolutely no idea why or what we were doing there and looked at Jorgie perplexed.  He smiled, motioned me to keep quite.  I turned back to the Baba and watched in fascination as she counted out a number of beans (41, I learnt later when I googled what I was about to witness) and put them into piles making a square composed of 3 rows and 3 columns, she then flicked away various beans from the different piles starring at them the whole time, then moved some around and removed some more.  After a few minutes, she said something to Jorgie, the only word I recognised was “doma” meaning home, and handed me 4 beans and closed my fingers round them.image  Jorgie passed her 2leva and we both thanked her (me still none the wiser as to what she had said or what I was supposed to do with the beans!).  When we were back in the car, Jorgie explained in Bulgarian and by tracing on his hand that the keys were not lost but somewhere on the property.  I went to open my hand but he stopped me, I got the impression that if I looked at them some how the magic would wear off.  I dutifully kept my fingers tightly closed over them, so much so that I soon had indents from my nails in my palm!  Back home we found Ed and he said he hadn’t found them.  “No” says I ” that’s because they are here in the garden!”  I proceeded to explain what I had witnessed and that the Baba said they were somewhere in the garden.  Neither mum nor Ed looked convinced.  Jorgie and I began searching the long grass along the path, I praying we found them as I have always been fascinated by tarot cards and the like and I really wanted the Baba to be correct!  We were soon joined by Jorgies wife, Baba Denka’s son and another passer by!  After an hour of searching, Ed strimmed  the grass down but still no keys could be found.  All the while I was grasping the beans in one hand!  We eventually gave up and everyone departed, I was disappointed to say the least but at the same time I felt extremely honoured to have had a glimpse into a side of village life that I suspect few foreigners know exists.

Ed and I headed into Dobrich to find a locksmith, an hour later we had the door open and a new lock fitted (with 3 keys) and all for 55 leva about £22! 🤗.

 

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We have our title deeds 🤗🍾🤗

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Having finally found a house we all loved (me in particular and those of you with a keen eye for detail will note that this is very similar to the house I fell in love with in Geshanovo and hoped to renovate!) and agreed on a purchase price, we met with Mariana from Homes Direct at what was to be our future home and drew up a preliminary contract in which both parties agreed to the sale and timescales.  We also drew up a contents list of what items of furniture would or would not be included in the sale.

We would have preferred to complete sooner as we were concerned that the pound would suffer once the date for the referendum was announced, however our sellers still had to find their new home so we reluctantly agreed to a date in April.  As Sod’s law would have it, the date for EU referendum was announced the next day and our worst fears were confirmed, the pound began a downward spiral and the house ended up costing us an extra £4000.  😢. As we watched it fall and fall, we took the decision to transfer sterling into our Bulgarian account as we might get a better deal.   On the day we were thinking of transferring the money, we were in our Bulgarian bank arranging for a debit card and online banking and the exchange rate went up from 2.39 to 2.40.  Taking this as a good sign and with  the opinion that every little helps and we went home and transferred the money.  The money hit our Bulgarian account 3 days later and the pound was at 2.42.  Yay 🤗 good news we thought but then realised the bank had only given us 2.39…grrrrr. Typically it flipping rallied again after we transferred the money to 2.46 before dropping back and stabilising at 2.42 for the next few days.  Today, only 12 days later it is at 2.51 😪 Ah well, that’s life and we do own a beautiful house 😍

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On the day of the purchase we needed to transfer the funds to our sellers account and to obtain proof of transfer from the bank to show the notary.  (Be warned the Bulgarians do like paperwork to be completed in triplicate and officially stamped!).  Then it was  of to the notary for signing of the final contract.  With us were Mariana, Danual the solicitor, our seller and her translater.  In we all trooped, passports were handed over, along with proof of transfer and our seller  confirmed that the funds had reached her account.  We both completed a form showing our marital status and had to give dates of any previous marriages, not entirely sure why but hey this is Bulgaria 😜  The notary searched the council records to confirm the taxes had been paid and there were no other claimants to the house and the seller showed proof that the electricity etc was paid up and up to date.  Then we signed four copies of the final contract, which Mariana , bless her had to translate word for word for me, under the watchful eye of the notary!  One copy for the notary, one copy for the courts and one each for us.  By the time we had finished signing my signature had changed and when the notary held up a page which both Mariana had signed, I knew she was on about the signatures and my heart sang, however it was Mariana’s signature she was unhappy with and made her re sign every copy!  I was also given a copy of the sellers title deed and a copy of the old skitsa (plan showing the property and buildings).  The notary then congratulated us on our purchase 😊  We left our solicitor to pay the notary fees and court fees, typically 10% of the declared sale price 😉 and

imagearranged to meet Mariana again two days later to obtain our title deeds and receipts from the notary and to register the property with the local tax office, which we did.  You have to register the sale (although you can give your estate agent power of attorney to do this for you) with the local tax office within two months or you can face fines!  At the tax office Mariana completed two complicated looking forms, then we went into see the council tax official who entered the details onto her computer and registered the property in my name.  This took a little while has I only have two names, my Christian name and my family name, most Bulgarians apparently have at least 3 names and the computer was confused by my lack of a middle name!?!  Eventually the lady behind the computer got it to say yes and there we are, job done!  We are now the official owners of our new home🤗🍾🎉

imageI cannot thank Mariana enough for all her support and advice not only with the buying process but obtaining long term residency and importing our car, so thank you Mariana We appreciate everything you have done and continue to do for us. 😊

House hunting-buyers beware!

Having decided against renovating our house in Geshanovo, we started house hunting.  Oh my, what a disappointing and stressful past time!  We were looking for a property with a reasonable plot, around a 1000sqm, preferably with an open plan lounge/diner/kitchen, 3 bedrooms for our use and a couple decent sized  rooms or granny annexe for mum.  We didn’t mind if it needed a little alteration i.e new wiring, plumbing and new roof so long as the basic structure had decent sized rooms and we could if necessary build an extension off it.

We started by looking at so called newly built or renovated houses, that on paper and looking at the pictures met our wish list.  Our first viewing was to a house in the hills to the south of Dobrich.  It was described as two houses for one, and consisted of a 2 storey house imageand a single storey annexe with a summer kitchen, living room and a bathroom, combined living space of 240 sqm on a 1700 sqm plot.  In the photos it looked lovely and the gardens were beautiful.  In reality, you needed a machete to clear a path through the spiky bushes that covered the entrance way and a scythe to clear the weeds that had sprung up in the garden to reach the front door!  The house itself was very sad, the paint work was no longer pristine white and the window frames were all beginning to rot, the door to the upper floor was swollen shut and refused budge.  The annexe had a tree growing up

Made by Samsung DVCthrough the open area and Ed put his foot through the floor in the enclosed living area!  Turns out the house had been renovated in 2009 and no one had bought it due to the recession, nor had the builder been bac k to maintain it and it was quietly rotting away.  So, so sad 😢  Unfortunately, many houses were built/renovated around this time and estate agents websites are full of pictures showing them as they were with a nice fat price tag attached and not as they are now rotting away unwanted and neglected.  Also be ware of other expats who bought and renovated their house before the recession, and paid a lot of money to do so, as they are oblivious to the fact that houses prices in the UK crashed during 2009-2010 and that although prices in the UK are slowly recovering they have still not recovered to were they were. Nor do they accept that their house should not have increased 10 fold!!

We looked at properties in the village in which we are renting and really liked one.  It was described as 120sqms living space and 2500sqm plot.  The house was immaculate as was the well maintained garden which had many fruit trees and a vineyard.  It needed modernising and we would need to build an extension but we could definitely see that we could make it work.  We negotiated a price and went back for a second viewing armed with a tape measure, so that we could visit an architect with an accurate drawing of the property……… Once measured it turns out the house was only 85sqms (the estate agent when we told him this asked if we had taken into account the thickness of the wall?   Really?? 😂😂😂) and the land was only 1500sqms as the other 1000sqms belonged to other family members but we might be able to buy it of them 🤔  Hmmm, let me see, that would be a NO!  Offer reduced and rejected.  OK, you can continue to have you house sitting on the estate agents website for another 2 or 3 years!

One day just before Christmas, we were driving out of the village heading to Varna for Christmas shopping and a car coming towards us flashed its lights, not unusual as the people in the village are really, really friendly so we waved back and thought no more of it. Unbeknownst to us the car turned round, and began to follow us, eventually we pulled in to a garage on the outskirts of Dobrich and lo and behold it pulled in behind us!  Out jumps Chattie Man (as named by mum!) one of the builders we had discussed renovations to our house in Geshanovo with, with a friend of his from Texas, who  used to build houses in Texas and is now looking to start building American style wooden houses here in Bulgaria, would we be interested?  Well yes we would, we love American style houses and having living in Canada we know how warm wooden built houses can be.  Great!  We arranged to meet up in a few days time to discuss designs and possible costs 😊  The following week, they turned up at the house and showed us some designs and we said which ones we liked and which ones didn’t fire our rockets.  As Christmas was nearly upon us it was agreed that we would meet up in the new year and Chattie Man could show us his plots in Tsarichino and Tex could come up with a design and possible costs of building something along these linesimage Mmmm, lovely!  Middle of January saw us looking at 2 plots in Tsarichino and a couple of old village houses which required renovating.  Chattie Man rashly suggested he could build something like the above for €50,000.  Really?  Done!!  A week later we met up at a cafe in General Toshevo to discuss what they had come up with and despite only having two bedrooms and one bathroom and a living/kitchen/diner approx a metre shorter than we wanted for our use (one side of the downstairs was for mums use) and a price tag of €64,500 we seriously considered it.  The following week we met with Chattie Man, Tex and an architect in Kavarna to discuss obtaining planning permission.  The architect said it would normally take around 5 months for planning to be approved but we were in luck as he was just finishing up a major project and would be able to meet with Ed and I the following week to commence the drawing process.  He said the only hold up he could foresee was finding a construction engineer who was available to sign off on the design.  These guys and gals are apparently fastidious and real jobs worths, so if you need one be extra nice to them they have the power to smash your dreams to smithereens!  He felt as this was a new way of constructing buildings in Bulgaria that they would be even more pedantic than usual.  Alarm bells were ringing though when we left Chattie Man and Tex and these were due to their not having sourced any treated timber in Bulgaria (timber in BG isn’t treated and wood worm is common place in both old and new timber), although Tex said they were in discussions with a company in General Toshevo who provided timber to a German company for use in their kit homes.

A week went by and we heard nothing from the architect and during this time we stopped thinking with our hearts and began to really analys what we were being offered.  Did it include the plot being fenced?  Did it include a driveway and a path from the garage to the front porch?  We had asked these questions but Chattie Man had sidled passed them with the ease of a politician!  Then the date of the in/out referendum was announced and the pound dropped against the Euro from 1.30 to 1.26 and if it continued to lose it would mean we wouldn’t have enough money to complete the house.   Tex rang about 10 days after our meeting with the architect and was surprised to hear that we hadn’t heard from him.  He also said that Chattie Man had obtained a permit to build on the land??!  How is this possible without plans?? We agreed to meet with them in Varna.  When we met them, it was explained the price did not include fencing but that this would be needed before the build went ahead to ensure their building equipment was secure overnight 😕.  It was explained that Chattie Man had obtained permission to build ahead of planning and that this would be granted post build as the original architect was still busy!  Really??  Oh and as for the wood required for the house, he was talking to Russian friend of his about importing the house in kit form from Russia but there was a trade imbargo in place and it might not get through!!  🤔   Hmmmmm, back to the drawing board and plan c!  Lovely guys but just too many variables for us to proceed. (Update, We recently met them again and I am happy to say that they have permission to import the kit houses 🤗  and will start building them in the near future.  I really hope they do and that they proove to be popular as they are really great guys 😊  Tis a pity that we weren’t able to be their first customers but c’est la vie).

We went home and went back to searching the Internet for a house.  We contacted Petar from “Relocate Bulgaria” with a view to seeing a couple of houses and Mariana from “Homes Direct”.  Both agents are extremely fluent in English and very helpful.  Petar showed us two very nice properties both owned by Brits, one was a work in progress and one was fully renovated.  Neither leant themselves to being converted to suit our needs without quite a considerable amount of money being spent in doing so,  and although they were both reasonably priced (around €30,000) it put them out of our reach.  The final house and most expensive was in Petrov Dol and I, for one, had fallen in love with it on the net.  It didn’t disappoint!  It was just as lovely in real life 😃  It is right at the top of our budget and although after giving Mum two rooms, it only leaves us with two bedrooms, one for us and one for Ben, the generous  living areas definitely tick the boxes as does the location on the edge of a lovely village and the views I have to say are stunning.  Oh happy days!  We have finally found our forever home! 😍😍🎉🍾😍😍

 

 

 

 

Christmas 2015

December was soon upon us, but you wouldn’t have known it from the bright, warm sunny days.  Having lived in the UK, we are used to December being cold, grey and invariably wet, so to have warm sunshine was an absolute delight!  imageAs the sunset we would draw the curtains, light the fire and settle down for the night, all warm n cozy feeling.  Ha!  Yeah right! The truth is the fire would blaze away, pushing the temperature of the lounge way up and we would be sat in light weight pj bottoms and tee shirts, sweating cobs!  Escape from the heat was possible by way of a visit to the bathroom, which as it is constructed of single skinned block, with no windows and only attached to the back of the house with the use of expanding foam remained just a few degrees above freezing !!😂😂

One of the things we love about Bulgaria is seeing the contrast between the old and new ways of living.  This was demonstrated perfectly one day in early December , when I received a phone call from DHL to say they were in the centre of the village with a parcel for us. As I went of to meet them, a horse and cart pulled up outside the gate laden with wood and asked Ed if he wanted it?  So whilst I was signing one of these image for a blue ray disc ordered from Amazon, Ed was buying wood from a horse and cart!

 

The second Sunday of every month, there is an English market held at the garden centre in Dobrich.  You have the odd person doing a car boot type sale selling second hand clothes, books etc, but the main reason people go is for the food stalls.  One lady sells English chocolate bars, crisps and sweets.  This is our first port of call and after parting with several 10s of leva and suitably laden down with bags full of fruit and nut, toffee crisps, toffee flavoured popcorn, cheese savouries, and wine gums we move on to one of the other stalls to stock up on sauces, spices, weetabix and oxo cubes and gravy granules!  Then lastly but not least the frozen food van! As a child growing up I would spend my summers with my Granny in the borders of Scotland in a wee hamlet (although calling a row of houses and a couple farms a hamlet is stretching the imagination just a tad!) known as The Milton on the outskirts of Dunscore village, it was an idyllic place to spend your holidays, running barefoot across fields and down sun softened Tarmac roads and being made to sit on the back step and butter your feet to remove the tar! To me it was and always will be a taste of heaven but anyway back to the point! Once a week a grocery van image similar to the one in the photo, would come by and my cousin Karen and I would mount the steps with great excitement as we got to spend our pocket money on sweeties! I loved the way the steps and the van moved when ever anyone climbed on or of the steps, I have always looked back with nostalgia at the time spent with my Granny, the grocery, butcher and library vans visiting and to my joy the frozen food man has a van like the one from my childhood!  The van moves in the same way, the lay out of the shelves and the products available all take me back to my childhood 😃.  From him, we buy such delights as Cumberland sausages, pukka pies, lamb chops, beef burgers, cheddar cheese, sticky toffee puddings, pickles and on our first visit and it being December, Christmas pudding!  Nom, nom, nom!

The 21st of December saw Ed and I heading to Varna airport to pick up my best friend for the past 28 years, JV and her partner MM.  The day before JV had text asking whether they would need puffer jackets or wet weather gear, puffers was our response but on this particular day the sun shone and the temperature was in the high teens and neither was required.  Ed and I sat outside enjoying a latte whilst we waited for their plane to land.  OMG!  If, like me, you have a sweet tooth then the caramel latte is to die for!  They pour not a shot of caramel syrup but actual molten caramel into the glass!! Mmmmmm 😍  When JV and MM appeared they could not believe how warm it was!  Where was the snow??  Er, not had any yet, welcome to a warm, sunny Bulgaria!

JV had brought lots of goodies from the UK for which we were very grateful and our favourite was a tin of cave aged cheddar, by far the best cheddar I have ever tasted 😊.  Pressies were distributed around the tree and the house was filled with festive cheer. image

We had arranged to meet up with my uncle and a few other expats on Christmas Day at the Izida Hotel for a meal, so in true Bulgarian style we had our traditional Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings on Christmas Eve, kindly cooked by my lovely hubbie.  The next day, I was up first and could be heard quietly murdering Christmas songs in the kitchen whilst making a brew.  This was my way of waking the house up!  I am like a big kid at Christmas, I want everyone up and the present opening to begin, no waiting til everyone is up and fed for me or no, up and at them, I’ve been tortured by the sight of them under the tree for weeks and now I want to know what is hidden behind ribbon, bows and wrapping paper!!  My wish was soon granted and I don’t think anyone was disappointed by their pressies, I know I certainly wasn’t. 😀👏   JV and MM had bought us all Christmas jumpers and these were duly donned before heading off to meet Archie, A & A, and J & M in Dobrich,

for an afternoon of festive fun with a great group of people 🍷🍻🍹🎉🍾.  The alcohol flowed, faces were stuffed with delicious food, the boys were especially festive and chose to try Rudolf, er Soz I mean reindeer, the boys requested reindeer only to be told it was of the menu, must have still been out with Santa on his rounds!! Lol. Big thanks to JB for organising it and for allowing 4 strangers to join you! 😘

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 November – December 2015……Finding our way round

After we had the internet connected and had finished unpacking boxes, life began to take on a sense of normality.  We met some of the other expats living in the village and they were able to tell us the name of the vets in Dobrich that speak English, which timber yard to buy wood from, when to expect the energy bill etc, etc, etc.

Ed had thought we might need 5 ton of wood, so I googled how to ask for it and practised it in my head all the way to the timber yard, when we got there he threw me right off by saying we should get 3 just as I was in the middle of ordering 5 ton (pet tona ot durvo, molya).  3? You said 5!  I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation but needless to say all I could do was hold up 3 fingers!  Somehow, we managed to order 3 ton of wood, provide our address and telephone number and arrange the time for it to be delivered the next day 😀   The cost was 440 leva including delivery, we were probably  over charged but what the heck we still felt quite smug as we drove home!!

The next day, the wood was duly delivered at the agreed time and the driver very kindly dropped it at the edge of the patio.    imageEd and I began stacking it against the house, until the sun started to set and I suggested we stop and finish it tomorow, he looked at me for a second, then grinned and said “why not, we’re in no rush!”.  image

So although most of it had been stacked we called it a day and headed inside for a well earned drink!

During the week Ed needed some rawl plugs, so that we could hang some pictures up. We headed to one of the hardware shops in General Toshevo and luck was on our side, we found them relatively easily on one of those twirly display stands. Thank goodness because I had no idea how to mime a rawl plug!   As the shopkeeper approached Ed said he would like 12.  “12?” I squeaked, “couldn’t we do with say, 10?” He looked at me and said “ok, but why?”  Laughing I replied “I can only count to ten!”   Ah yes, if out shopping with me you can have what you like so long as it isn’t more than 10!!

The last Sunday of November dawned bright and sunny, nothing unusual there however the wind had switched and was coming from a southerly direction,  which was a welcome change 😀  We headed to Balchik on the Black Sea coast.  The wind was whipping the sea up in to a frenzy and the waves were crashing over both the break water and the sea wall. Having grown up along the coasts of the West Country, I love to see a wild sea and this one didn’t fail to deliver 👏   Mum and Ed at one point missed timed the waves breaking over the sea wall and were soaked, imageI, had stopped to take a photo of one of the many statues that are dotted along the promenade and remained dry! 😂😂😂  imageWe didn’t make it to the summer palace which was built for Queen Marie of Romania between 1926 and 1937 (this part of Bulgaria was under Romanian rule until 1940) or the botanical gardens, we’ll do them on another trip 😉   One thing that I am curious about is what connection Sir Francis Drake has  with Balchik?  I only ask because the restaurant belonging to the Mistral Hotel is called the “Francis Drake”?!?  Perhaps the owner is from Tavistock, or maybe they heard of Sir Francis as a child and wanted to sail the seven seas in search of adventures.  Who knows?  Not me, but I did feel a certain affinity with Balchik thanks to this tenuous link to my home town!

 

November 18 2015 – We have internet!

After Ben left, the need for access to the web became paramount.  Not so I could communicate with you my reader but my only child, who was now located thousands of miles away 😢.  Ed and I tried to obtain it but were told we needed to be residents.  Hmmm, panic!  I couldn’t be popping into General Toshevo at all hours of the day to try and find out how he was doing, I needed instant access to him!   My uncle Archie came to our rescue and suggested he could take it out for us, along with mobile phone connection, landline and television, if we were willing to pay the bill.  Of course we would!!

We agreed to meet in Dobrich on Wednesday 18th of November.   It was another wonderful, warm sunny day and after completing all the necessary paperwork with Viacom, we headed for a spot of lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Can you imagine sitting outside enjoying a pizza and a latte in the middle of November in the UK?  Neither could we but there we were sitting in 19c sunshine in the middle of November! Sheer bliss 😍 image

We left Archie and Lorelle, after thanking them profusely for all their help and headed home to await the satellite guys who were coming out to our house at 3 that afternoon to fit the dish 😀.   As soon as we got home, we charged the dongle and at last we had access to the outside world 🎉👍👏🏻  The first person we contacted was, of course, Ben.  He had arrived safely on Koh Toa and was sharing an apartment with a fellow student from China who he had met on the ferry over from Koh Samui.

True to their word, at the 3pm we had a call on our newly acquired telephone to say they were in the middle of the village. Ed went to meet them.  Within half an hour we had satellite television!  We have CNN (has to be the worst news channel in the world but hey beggars can’t be choosy!), discovery, history and several movie channels that broadcast in the original language with Bulgarian sub titles, happy days 😀.

The  cost of two mobile numbers, landline (well satellite phone to be accurate) with 60 hours free calls within Europe, satellite TV and unlimited super speed internet, 88leva (approximately £34)!!

Our excitement soon died, when we realised just how slow the Internet was.  For weeks I could be heard muttering slooooow internet is better than no internet, slow internet is better than no internet.  But the novelty was wearing of quickly, I couldn’t view any videos on YouTube or FB and it took an age to upload photos.  The following month when we went to pay the bill, we complained.  The guy in the shop checked the coverage for the village and said it was 2g and to check what the dongle was set to.  We went home and checked, the dongle was set at 3G, we changed it  and low and behold we had quicker internet.  For the first time in weeks, I was able to view videos and photos that friends were posting on FB 🤗.   Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and the next day it was back to going at a snails pace.image.png The next time we were in Dobrich we headed back to Vivacom and the lady serving us, apologised and said things would be better in January as they were rolling out 4G……hmmmmm?  🤔

When we went to pay the bill this week (10th Jan) and to increase our TV package to include HBO and the sports channels we were served by the same chap as in December.  He foolishly asked whether our internet was any better…..funny you should ask……No it isn’t!  He said he would make a complaint but had we tried moving the dongle nearer the window?  No we hadn’t but we had tried it on various areas of the house to no avail and we had used it in the car sitting in car park at the Park Izida Hotel.  How was it then? he asked.  Brilliant, super fast but I can’t be driving to the park to write my blog!  That thought amused him endlessly 😂.  Have I mentioned the Bulgarians have a wicked sense of humour?

When we got home Ed tried moving the dongle to the top of a unit next to the window and et voila!  We had super fast internet!!  Only trouble with that is the battery on the dongle doesn’t last very long and there was no way of charging it up there 😠.  We moved it across the room to the top of the bookcases and as luck would have it, we still had a good connection, yay.  👏🏻👍

Not sure if the chap complained or whether being up higher and away from the television is the reason for the sudden increase in speed, I’m just happy to finally have internet that works fast enough to Skype and to save the drafts of my blogs, which I haven’t been able to do for weeks.  Long may it last 😊

 

 

Reflections on village life

As I sit here at the end of another bright, cold, sunny, winters day, with the curtains drawn and the fire blazing contemplating what to write about, it dawned on me that it was Monday!  It’s so easy to lose track of days here and Monday mornings no longer herald the start of another working week.  The freedom of not being tied into a 9-5  job to pay the bills is really quite liberating.  No more manic Monday’s, wishing it was Sunday for us! 😊

Today, the only sound disturbing the peace was a donkey braying extremely loudly from the other side of the village, it was even louder than the various cockerels around the village that normally try to out cockadoodle do each other!

Life in the village, at least for us, is peaceful and stress free as Ed pointed out the only stress he has now is wondering if he has enough beer in!  For the Babas (elderly ladies) it’s not quite so idyllic.  They are all in their 70s and 80s, 4 feet nothing with twinkling blue eyes, some bent over with arthritis and their days are filled with tending to their chickens, goats, vegetables and chopping their fire wood into kindling.  They don’t complain and are always cheerful and stop to chat to you and pat your face or arm and hold your hand.  It doesn’t matter to them that we don’t understand most of what their saying.  Our closest neighbours are Baba Rueski, whose house backs on to our and Baba Da (that’s what it sounded like or she could have just been saying call her Baba, yes? As da means yes!) who lives just across the road.

Early one morning, not long after the dogs had arrived, when I was up letting the dogs out and admiring the view and the peace, I heard someone calling, I looked up to locate the source of the noise and there was Baba Rueski at the fence.  At the same time as I spotted her so did, Asbach, who let out one of her deep chested woofs and galloped towards her.  I have never in my life seen a tiny old lady, in long skirts move so quick!  Quick as a flash she was back through the gate that leads from her side garden (which borders ours) and into her house.  I called the dogs and put them in doors and wandered across the field (our garden! Lol) calling “hello”and “Dobra utro” (good morning), she emerged slowly and peered round the corner of her house, I said it’s ok, I’ve put the dogs away and beckoned her forward.  She came bearing gifts, a bag of cakes, a big bunch of cut chrysanthemums and a chrysanthemum plant as a welcome present.  After the introductions, she in Bulgarian and me speaking English, I thought she said she was from Dobrich, transpires several weeks later and no sign of her that she has gone to stay in Dobrich with her family for the winter!

Baba Da who is 82 years old and in the warm weather could be found most days in the late afternoon sat on a pail just outside her gate, waiting to chat whom so ever is passing, gave us a bottle of her homemade red wine as a welcome gift😊.

image One day when I was about to put a full black bin bag into the communal bin, Baba Da came hobbling towards me, shaking her stick and giving me a real hard time  (the tone and the frequent use of “ne” gave it away!).  Perplexed, I stopped putting the bag in the bin and asked “ne?”.  She continued to give me hard time, when I looked in the bin (the bin lorry had been that very morning) it was still full of black bags that we had been happily throwing in there 😩. Suitably embarrassed, I tipped the contents of the bag into the bin, this met with her approval a smile and a hug😳.  After that I started using smaller bags and still shake their contents into the bin, never again do I want to upset the locals!! I  also snuck out wearing plastic gloves one evening and ripped all the old black bags open as best I could!  I’m pleased to say the next time the bin lorry came (every other Friday) the bin was emptied 👏😀 phew!

Just after sunrise imageone morning I was out with the dogs and heard a lone bell, tolling slowly and mournfully across the village, signalling that someone had died 😥  The following day as we were driving through the  village to go to Dobrich, the bells were frantically ringing out, calling the villagers to the funeral.  I have to say whoever it was that had died must have been popular as it appeared the whole village was making its way to the church to pay they’re last respects.

Every evening, just as the sun is setting, the jackdaws and rooks start flocking together prior to roosting and give the most amazing aerobatic display.  In the picture below they are just starting to gather over the top of Baba Rueski’s house image.jpeg

Life here has a much gentler pace to it, governed by the seasons and so far we are all loving it.

November 9 – 16th………Fire and farewell

Following the arrival of the removals, we were busy unpacking what we needed and storing the rest in either the basement or the cellar. Mums room was priority as she had brought all her bedroom furniture with her.  Monday saw Ben and Ed dismantling the wardrobes and bed that were in her room and reassembling them into what was to be Ben’s rooms and replacing it with her antique wardrobes and four poster bed.  This meant Ben had his own space and a proper bed as he had been sleeping in the lounge on a sofa bed, poor kid! It also enabled us to move the sofa bed into his room and allowed us to use our own sofas 😊

On Wednesday, Ed and I went in search of a fire and more by luck than judgement stumbled across Temax.  We were passed it before it registered that it was a DIY store and so like many of the locals we pulled onto the pavement between two trees and walked back.  Ah ha! They did have fires and they looked more sturdy than the ones in Mr B!  We were soon approached by a store assistant, he looked baffled when we spoke in English and muttered “moment” and disappeared, he was soon back with a young lady who spoke English, who asked if she could help.  We explained we wanted to buy a stove, she translated for us and the gentleman started pointing out various stoves and she translated what he was saying 😀  We chose one that pushed out 11 watts (we have a large room to heat!). We then pointed to the chimney parts and he helped chose the amount we needed, we tried to ask for a topper but he shook his head and pointed out another bent piece and just said “Dobrie”. (Good), we  went to pick up some kindling..”Ne!” Was his response, ne? Ok, he pointed out to some white sacks and explained these were what we needed (at least that’s what we understood, as the young girl had disappeared by then!), he piled 3 sacks onto our trolley and led us to the check out before helping Ed to lift it all into the back of the car.  Rather chuffed with ourselves we headed for home.

Around two, the Russian builder appeared, he seemed satisfied with our purchase and indicated that it should be lit first outside as it would give off a lot of fumes.  We hadn’t bought capping pieces to go through the wall, so he and Ed headed into General Toshevo to look for what was needed.  By the time they got back to the house it was starting to get dark and the Russian said he would be back on Friday to fit it.  😥 That meant another two nights huddled around the electric fire, which was as much use as a chocolate fire guard!

Later that evening Ben and I went into General Toshevo to buy some Coke (the drink, not drugs!) and stopped to buy a pizza. Whilst Ben was being served by a lady who was pointing to the menu and gabbling away in Bulgarian, a large lad of about 16/17 years old entered and explained in a very high pitched voice what toppings was on each, Ben choice a meat feast and the young man then asked “beeg or small?”.  I didn’t dare look at Ben for fear of laughing, transpires Ben was praying I wouldn’t look at him for the same reason.  Thinking, a small would be just be one piece, he asked for a large one.  We were told it would take 20 minutes so we headed back to the car.  About half way across the car park and at a safe distance not to be over heard, we both turned to each other and grinned and said in high pitched voices “beeg or small?”.  Collapsing into giggles Ben said he thought it was another lady speaking until he looked up!  Poor lad did have an incredibly high voice.   20 minutes later Ben went to collect his “beeg” pizza, it wasn’t just big, it was ginormous!  It fed Ben, mum and I for tea and the remaining 3 slices Ben had for breakfast (ugh) and all for £6.00!!

Friday, true to his word the Russian builder returned and began to drill the hole through the wall.  One drill bit was quickly ruined and he went to fetch another one. 🏃 On his return he re-commenced drilling and chiselling out the hole.  It soon became apparent why his first drill bit died a sudden death, he was drilling where not one but two reinforcing metal rods were located in the wall.  Hmmm……. Did we want him to cut through them! Er, no!  Hole relocated a couple of inches and this time no metal rods, yay!  He pushed the metal tube through the wall and disappeared, returning with a bucket of cement and proceeded to fill in gap, with the aid of google translate he said not to use the fire that night 😪

The next day we headed up to Popina to take advantage of my uncles wifi    so that we could print off Ben’s ticket to Thailand and sort out his PADI insurance.  We had a lovely couple of hours with Archie and Lorelle before heading home and finally lighting the fire!  Harvey was especially happy as you can see!image

On Ben’s penultimate day, we headed into Varna and mooched round the malls.  Mum who had got it into her head that Bulgaria was devoid of decent shops and been buying clothes and bedding like it was going out of fashion all year, was suitably impressed!  I found the newly opened “Next” store and was not so impressed.  It was tiny and apart from a few pairs of jeans was filled with their smart, work wear collection, grrrr!  I don’t need work gear!! Lol.  We found Ben some waterproof, breathable sandals as I had stupidly packed the ones he’d bought in the UK in amongst mums ornaments and things and the box was somewhere in the back storage room.  Don’t ask, it made sense when I was packing!  After a bite to eat we headed home to help Ben pack for his four month sojourn to Ko Toh, where he was to undertake his training as a PADI Staff IDC (when qualified he will be able to train other people as instructors) jammy bugger!

We were up early the next day, as Ed and Ben had a long drive to Sophia. I got up to say au revoir and wish him a safe trip, with lots of long hugs and let me know your safe before I finally let go and waved them off.  Later that morning, mum and I ventured round to the village post office to see if we had any post and the electricity bill.   I showed my passport to  the lady in the post office and whilst pointing to the energy bills on her desk asked if I had one?  She had a look, shook her head and kept demanding “Ulitisa?”  I had no idea what the heck she was saying, smiled and shrugged and said I didn’t understand, she kept demanding and finally pointed to one of the bills which showed a street number (Ulitisa) and house number!  I didn’t know the village streets were numbered!  I held my palms upward and still smiling said “I don’t know”.  She kept on asking and mum and I began backing out of the office before making good our escape!

The day passed and as the sunset image.jpeg

The temperature in the house dropped rapidly and mum volunteered to light the fire………it began to smoke and didn’t dissipate as it usually did but got thicker and more acrid.  The patio doors, temperamental at the best of times, refused to open, I opened the window and suggested we should vacate to the garden, which we did all bar Tizzy the pug.  We tried calling her to no avail, so I went back into the house to find her.  The smoke was so thick my eyes were smarting and my throat stung.  I found Tiz curled up on the floor and chased her outside.   Once, the smoke had cleared we returned and the fire seemed to be behaving, until the time came to throw on another  heat log when it began to behave in a very strange manor.  It would blaze and then die down and start smoking, then blaze and fade again all the while pouring thick, black smoke out of every orifice!  I, again, suggested we retreat to the garden, threw open the window and called the dogs and led them through the house and put them in the garden before heading to the bathroom.  When I did go outside only the dogs were there.  I walked round the outside of the house calling for mum, no reply.  When I reached the living room window I peered inside and there she was stood in the middle of the room flapping her arms around, surrounded by dense smoke! I yelled to her to get out!  Eventually the fire settled down and the room cleared so we went back in and decided to let the fire die!  Where was my hubby, the fire Meister when we needed him?!  Poor man was driving back from Sofia, through fog 😢.  He finally arrived home after 9pm having left home at 7am.  Transpires (alright Ed realised)  the wind had changed direction and was blowing the smoke back down the chimney, thanks to the stupid bend that we had been advised would work as a topper!  Needless to say we have since bought a proper end for it!!

 

 

 

November 7th….. First day in Bulgaria.

Our first morning in Bulgaria and I was up at 6, which is 4am UK time!!!  I know I we had a lot to do and that I was excited at the prospect of seeing the dogs but 4am, really??  Once I’d made a brew I checked my phone for messages and sure enough I had received a text from the pet chauffeurs saying dogs were all fine and they hoped to be with us in the latter part of the day 😁  Ed was up shortly afterwards and after several cups of tea we headed in to Dobrich.

First port of call was Mr Bricolage to look for a wood burning stove, we weren’t that impressed with the ones they had to offer as they looked flimsy and overpriced.  We left and went next door to Techno-polis to look at their oil fired electric heaters.  A salesperson (that had served Ed a few days earlier when he went into buy a Hoover and told him his choice was rubbish and would break within a day or two and had looked confused when Ed said that’s ok, I only need to last one day!!) came over to help us.  We pointed out one or two heaters and he shook his head and said if we could wait till next weekend they would have a supply of Tessie heaters and they were better.  Can you imagine a salesperson in the UK being that honest?

Next stop was Kaufland for a spot of food shopping.  This involved a lot of pointing and holding up of fingers (no! Not a two fingered salute!) when at the fresh meat counter.  Then home before heading of to Geshanovo to meet up with another builder and an architect.

We discussed our plans and were told no problem, but had we considered knocking it down and moving it to the back of the plot so that it was south facing?  More discussions, and then we were told “ok I have a better idea of what you want, should come in around €450 per square meter.”  Oh really?!?  From blogs and from my uncle (retired builder) we knew this was to turnkey and we didn’t want that as we have all the kitchens, bathroom furniture, tiles and lights, which they knew!  😡 Ed pointed this out and there was a bit of backtracking, hmmm, yep exit right!   Mum, wasn’t to keen on the location 😩 and Ed and I, having spent sometime with her and noticed how wobbly she was when walking , were also concerned about the access as the hill up to the house was just a track.  It could also proove difficult getting in and out when it snowed.  Further, thought was required.

Back at home, we had a text from the Pet Chauffiers to say the fog was still hampering their progress  and hoped to be with us by midnight……sound familiar?

It was a cold night and so we lit a fire in the kitchen, using cardboard for fuel!  imageIt worked and we all sat around it chatting, whilst Ben cooked a delicious stir fry with egg fried rice 🙂  At about 11 that night we had a call from Pet Chauffiers  to say they had crossed the Danube at Silistra and the Bulgarian customs were refusing them access as they didn’t have a V5  for the new vehicle they were travelling with, only the bill of sale?  Ed suggested they go further down and cross over at Constanta as this was only an hour from us.

A little while later we went to bed, just ever so slightly worried about the dogs……..