Day to day events mostly cataloguing my complete lack of understanding and common sense!

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Wednesday 28th December, 2016
Category: 2016/12
Tags: Christmas village parties

Outside right now is cold and blustery, with the odd flurry of snow swirling and the hills hidden by fog and cloud so the day is never very light. Luckily for me I'm in that quiet lull time between Christmas and New Year where you can spend 90% of the day snuggled indoors developing very square eyes and constantly grazing on the dozens of unhealthy snacks you've been stockpiling for the festive period.

Christmas day was spent with some lovely friends enjoying delicious food, talking, laughing, and tormenting the animals with the cat toy I bought.

Present from the milkman - a huge chunk of fresh curds.

There've been a couple of parties in the village; one last week at the pensioners' club where we paid 5 levs for a meal and some tombola prizes (I won a lightbulb and a roll of electrical tape!).

Slavi playing at the party

The other was held last night. It was all a bit touch and go right up to the last minute because the electricity went off in the early afternoon (cooking sausages and heating up frozen foods in semi-darkness was an adventure) but luckily it came on just as the party was due to start. Sadly the turnout was tiny, possibly due to the weather, the uncertainty created by the powercut, the usual winter flu doing the rounds and a lack of advertising (or maybe the lazy sods were all just cosy indoors watching telly) but it was fun nevertheless.

The highlight for me had to be the telling of riddles by Reicho, and if you guessed the answer you won a prize. Here are some examples: What did the elephant think when it saw a naked man? Answer - How can he feed himself with such a tiny trunk! And another was: Why did God create man first? Answer - So he could have a chance to speak. The Bulgarians were very quick off the mark in answering, but I managed to guess one correctly in time: What is cold at the start, hot in the middle, and cold at the end? Answer - The year. I won a sachet of Nescafe, but other prizes included boxes of matches and, I kid you not, a condom! Never a dull moment.

There was another party last week too, but that was in the village of Ganchovets where some friends have a house. It was a very full evening as there was entertainment first including a neverending play set in a job centre; folk dancing; and singing. They too had raffle prizes which were pretty much the entire stock of a plastics shop (buckets, washing up bowls, mop handles etc) and then a guy playing a keyboard and a girl singing entertained us so people could get up and dance.

Children receiving presents from Santa in Ganchovets

My neighbour has never quite got the knack of receiving gifts, at least not in the accepted British manner where a chewed toffee is met with exclamations of delight and you shouldn't haves. This year I bought her a nice woolly scarf/shawl and a bar of chocolate. Upon opening the scarf she laughed and told me she already had several, then stuffed it back in the bag and lobbed it on the settee without even opeing the card or noticing the chocolate! Keep smiling, Julie, keep smiling...

Saturday 17th December, 2016
Category: 2016/12
Tags: weather Christmas hairdresser pets garden walking

It's over a fortnight since I wrote anything here, yikes, so tonight's entry will be a little random and jumbly as I try and work back through the past two weeks' events. Bear with me...

It's always pretty hectic coming up to Christmas with lots of events going on, winter weather hitting, preparations for the big day itself and so on. I told you last time that I'd got all my cards finished and sent, and mentioned that the reason I make my own cards is partly due to the lack of printed cards for sale over here. Well it turns out that many years ago it was quite a strong tradition in Bulgaria to send Christmas cards, and there were many more available, but with the increase in telephone communication and then the internet, the tradition tailed off (unlike in the UK where card sales are big business including from internet sources). Anyway, the good news is that it seems the tradition is on the increase over here again, and shops are beginning to stock a more interesting selection of cards for the first time in many moons.

Last Friday there was a charity Christmas sing-along in the bar in Slaveykovo in aid of the dog charity run by Emma and Anthony who have already organised the neutering and tagging of over 180 dogs in the region (the vast majority being strays) and have rehomed many. As well as the songs there was a raffle (I won a 10 lev voucher from the local vet which will come in handy next time I take Bella along to bite him for treatment). There were also people selling hand-made Christmas decorative items with some of the proceeds going to the collection, and Ken (the musician) also donated all of his earnings from the evening.

Over 700 levs was raised which will go a long way towards more neutering, rehoming and medical treatment of other unwanted animals.

Last Thursday a bunch of us went out for a pre-Christmas lunch in Gabrovo where we also did a secret Santa. I drew a very pretty make-up bag and body lotion, though the bag has now been given over to store my stash of camera batteries since I don't wear make-up.

Last Monday saw me hob-nobbing with the elite when the British ambassador paid a visit to Veliko Tarnovo. We were supposed to be having Christmas carols followed by mince pies but the day had been declared a national day of mourning due to the dreadful train crash incident in the village of Hitrino, so the carols were cancelled. After a little speech by the mayor of VT, who confirmed that two budget airlines will indeed be doing flights from Gorna airport which should be completed and operational by the end of next year,  and one from the ambassador (Emma Hopkins) she then mingled around everyone and we all had the chance to ask any questions we might have. I asked her if it was possible to hold Bulgarian citizenship without giving up your British citizenship and she said it was, though she was a bit unsure whether that still meant you could rightfully claim a British pension which would be a bit of a deal breaker for me. Still, it's there as a last resort possibility if there's no other way of remaining permanently in Bulgaria post Brexit.

That's the ambassador immediately to the left of the lady in the red coat. She didn't spoil us with Ferrero Rocher but there was a good spread of cakes on offer.

This week there is a village lunch on Thursday, mainly so the pensioners have a little daytime celebration as they're reluctant to come to any evening events (probably too busy getting ready to go clubbing) though hopefully there will be more of an evening party event between Christmas and New Year.

With time flying by so quickly I was wondering how to fit in a quick visit to the hairdresser, so in the end I decided to try one of the ones in Dryanovo instead. The one I chose (at random) is just along from the car park in the centre of town, and when I arrived, there were already two customers waiting, but the hairdresser, Nadya, said she could fit me in for a trim if I waited. The TV was playing one of the music video stations so there was a bit of entertainment whilst I sat there. I think I was being squeezed in before the next customer came for their hair dyeing, so there was no time for a wash, she just sprayed my hair with some kind of liquidy cream. Actually, back track a moment. When I first arrived, a woman with blonde hair was having some bright beetroot coloured highlights dabbed all over random ends of hair which would no doubt go down a storm at the work's Christmas party. However, without washing all the gunk off her hands, the hairdresser then proceeded to wash the next customer's hair. Is this customer not now getting some pink tinges to their hair? Maybe she looked upon it as a free bonus. Back to me, and after some snippety snipping and a quick blowdry I was all done. All for the princely sum of 5 levs.

The last group dog walk we had was before the snow hit and we managed to drop on another fantastic day, so much so that within half an hour it was off with the jackets and jumpers and back to t-shirts. Our walk this time took us up to the forest and then all along the top ridge before heading back down across the fields to the bottom of the village and back round - almost 5 miles altogether.

We had to walk along the road a little way but I've since spotted a different track which would mean we only have to cross the road, which is better for the dogs, so I'll check this out just with Alfie some time and see where it goes. Bella's actually doing really well with her walking now, and managing quite long distances without needing to rest, so she might even be able to come along. She's getting less wary of other dogs though doesn't like it when Bruno, the semi-blind street dog, comes lumbering along and brushes against her.

They've enjoyed their walks in the snow, despite the sub-zero temperatures.

Two little surprises in the garden - one good, one bad. The good one was that one of my supposed cabbages turned out to be a cauliflower, the only one that grew. I noticed it a few weeks ago when I was checking on all the veggies in the cloche and spotted the little white florettes poking out between the leaves.

The bad news was that the tarpaulins covering my bales of straw and hay have just been letting the rain through, and most of the lower bales have become saturated, and even started sprouting grass.

I know ultimately that they're going to rot down when I use them as mulch but I don't want that happening too soon or they won't provide the deep weed barrier I intend them for. I've now stacked them slightly off the ground on wooden slats and covered their exposed side with plastic sheeting to hopefully prevent further saturation.

I think that's caught you up to speed with events so I guess I should wish you all a very merry Christmas wherever you may be spending it. Весела Коледа!

 

Sunday 4th December, 2016
Category: 2016/12
Tags: weather Bella vet Christmas

That gleeful moment when you finish the handmade Christmas cards for this year and the letters to go in some of them! Giving Christmas cards isn't such a big thing amongst Bulgarians, so the shops tend to have an extremely limited selection which are the same year in year out, so I prefer to channel the remnants of teacher lurking deep inside and reach for the coloured card and glitter.  The stress of the approaching festive season has also been alleviated by a lovely invite for Christmas day, so I can now sit back and enjoy the coming events.

The British Ambassador is hosting a Christmas carols and mince pies do in Veliko Tarnovo on the 12th of December which has always been lovely in previous years as it's set in the Christmas market area with all the little Swiss cabin type stalls and twinkly lights. Then on the 15th a big group of us are going for lunch complete with some secret Santa gift giving.

I think in the last blog entry I mentioned the dense fog we'd had. Well that turned to snow this week, though only a sprinkling which melted after a couple of days. Whilst I was on my way down to walk the dogs by the stadium I was treated to an enormous skein of ducks or geese flying along and managed to film the last few moments. I'm no bird expert so I've no idea if they are just arriving or merely moving to another watering hole in the area, but they looked pretty impressive.

Click for video

Speaking of the stadium; here are some updates on the clean-up process.  All the shrubs which were growing up in the old seating area have been cleared:

And the remaining shrubs around the edge have been cut back. There are marker poles dotted around the border of what I guess was the running track, maybe to make the size of it visible at a glance:

Naturally work stopped with the bad weather, but to me it all looks ready for someone to come and inspect and decide what work needs doing to actually turn it back into a useable sports venue (unless that stage has already happened).

Bella was back at the vet on Friday to begin her vaccinations. Luckily the vet had forgiven her for biting him (he had quite a nasty scab on his thumb still) and had no qualms about injecting her.  Because she will be put up for adoption and possibly even rehomed abroad, she was also micro-chipped and given her EU passport. She has to go back on the 29th December for her rabies shots, and then in January I can start the process of getting her leg x-rayed and hopefully fixed.

Whilst I was at the vets I spoke to Emma who is doing amazing work in Dryanovo and the surrounding villages with catching stray dogs for neutering, tagging and treating. Many have already found new homes through her but unfortunately there is a small core of resistance to her work by local people. Whether it's politically motivated or what I don't know, but some are even going as far now as to try and get the vet closed down! How bad is that - and he's the only one in Dryanovo as far as I know. The excuse they are using is that the space he uses for operating isn't up to scratch, so Emma is now organising some refurbishment of the facilities to meet regulations. There is an appeal for materials such as a new sink, paint, cabinets etc, or, I guess, the funds to cover the purchase of these, and people are already willing to chip in and do the work, so hopefully any threats of closure will soon be a thing of the past.

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