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

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Friday 1st September, 2017
Category: 2017/09
Tags: camping Irakli Beach

It was holiday time this week as I headed off to the coast for three days camping with some friends.

The plan was to drive across to a place called Irakli Beach which is just south of the town of Obzor (between Varna and Burgas). Apparently it is one of the few places left where people can freely camp right on the beach, which sounded idyllic to me.

One of the things about camping is the extraordinary amount of stuff you need to take, but luckily the person driving us had a big car. Even so it was absolutely packed out as we headed off early Monday morning.

We stopped off in Obzor to do some food shopping and have a spot of lunch and then it was back in the car to head to our beach. You get there via a rough track from the main road, which splits in several places, one part of which takes you down to a big carpark next to an official campsite. We turned off a bit before this though so that we could park up in the forest bordering the beach, as close as possible to where we could camp.

There was an amazing number of people already camped out; some on the beach but many more in the forest itself, and by the looks of them some had been there all summer as they had converted little clearings into their home spaces with shelves across tree branches and even a big solar panel propped to one side.

From the forest there are lots of small tracks leading down onto the beach, so, laden up with our stuff, we made our way across the sand to set up camp (it actually took two trips to get all our things there!)

Here we are all set up - that's me in the camouflage tent in the middle!

The beach is beautiful; a huge long curve of soft sand fringed by forest, with a couple of restaurants up near the proper campsite area where there are also areas set out with umbrellas and sunbeds. Unfortunately, as with so much of Bulgaria, there is little sense of taking your rubbish home with you, and as you walk into the forest trails they are literally littered with the usual plastic bottles and phenomenal quantities of loo roll. It was quite shocking actually. You pass the first couple of trees and then see that you're about to walk through what looks like an open toilet, and you just stand still in disbelief and think 'oh my God'. It is such a huge pity as this is the one blot on what is otherwise an absolutely fantastic location.

As soon as we'd got our tents pitched it was time for a cup of tea, then on with the cossy and into the sea.

It was brilliant! It's been about 6 years at least since I swam in the proper sea (the Thames Estuary doesn't count!) and I couldn't take the grin off my face as I jumped about dodging the quite big rollers that were coming in. The water was so lovely and warm, and after a few stones near shore it was all sandy.

As the afternoon wore on we went and collected some firewood which turned out to be really difficult as every single camper already seemed to have scavenged every available twig, but we found some bits and pieces as well as pinching a couple of bigger logs from another firepit (there was no sign of campers or vehicles so we concluded they'd gone home already).

We had a couple of little barbecue trays to cook our food on, but once we'd lit the fire it was easier just to stick the frying pan on it and cook the remaining food there. After dinner it was pudding time - smores made by sandwiching toasted marshmallows between chocolate digestive biscuits.

I must admit I hardly slept that night, either due to the sounds of voices from nearby campers or the noise of the wind flapping the sides of the tent, and was glad as it turned light and I could see the new day.

Uh oh! The sky was decidely grey, and whilst we cooked a breakfast of sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, the rain began to fall ever more steadily. We retreated into our tents where I spotted the first drips coming in at the seams. Luckily I'd bought a section of plastic sheeting with me so dashed out in the rain and draped it over my tent. This protected it a lot though some water still came in lower down where the plastic didn't reach (this was mopped up and squeezed out using yesterday's knickers!)

We made our way across to the restaurant to get a hot drink and decide on what to do. One of the other tents was leaking really badly and would have been impossible to stay in if the rain continued to fall, so it was decided that we had no choice but to pack up and head home.

We got completely and utterly drenched as we towed everything back to the car, two of us even falling over in the mud on the way! Then it was a crazy ride along the now muddy track as the car slipped and slid from side to side until we reached the tarmac. As soon as we found a garage we pulled in so we could change out of our saturated clothes into something dry, and then it was back to Gostilitsa.

I spent much of Wednesday shaking sand out of things and washing stuff, as well as investigating my leaky tent. It turns out that the groundsheet has been attached to the main body of the tent the wrong way, so any water running down the side of the tent gets caught in a little gully and then runs straight inside, but a bit of Googling had me making a mix of silicone and paint thinner which I've painted along any seams on the tent, and this seams to be sealing it properly.

So, I'll be much more ready for our next visit to Irakli. I can't wait!

Monday 21st August, 2017
Category: 2017/08
Tags: lichna card permanent residency registering car language wood

It's been a busy old couple of weeks for me, but now I can relax a bit as several major things which were looming over me have been dealt with.

A lot of my stress comes with trying to juggle the timing of things; not easy in Bulgaria where things happen when they happen, and that's about as precise as it gets. Take online ordering for example. I'm off camping next week for a couple of days so ordered myself a nice little dome tent from one of the DIY stores. I'm also having some work done in the living room and so ordered a new pechka (woodburner) to go in there. At least the great thing about Bulgaria is that you can opt for cash on delivery, so if your order goes totally pear shaped you haven't lost financially.

Anyway, having made the orders online I then had to face two phone calls from the companies informing me that my orders had been processed and to expect delivery... well, for the stove it was Thursday or Friday, and for the tent it was 'in a few days'. See what I mean? Not so bad if you're living with someone and can take turns staying home, but a bit awkward for a singleton.

Alongside awaiting deliveries I also had an imminent MOT and the renewal of my ID card and car registration documents to fit in, hence the tension.

In some ways I like the challenge, especially with the language, and it's a big buzz to come off the phone and know that you managed to both understand and be understood - a big improvement last year when the guy phoned about my bubblewrap order and I didn't have a clue who was calling or why and had to resort to English!

Added to this my wood delivery arrived and they guys who cut and split it could show up at any time.

Miraculously everything pretty much slotted into place. I'd just arrived back from Gabrovo one day when the tent guy phoned to ask where the house was. I described the location at which point he said good, because I'm outside right now. The pechka guy actually gave 15 minutes notice of delivery, although he came alone and there was no chance of me helping him heft a 77kg fire down off the lorry. He was content to wait though whilst I phoned around and found someone to come down and give him a hand.

The MOT was quite quick this year as there was no one waiting when I arrived and I got straight in. Similarly the application for a new lichna card (I'm now officially a permanent resident, yayyyy) and re-registering the car documents all went smoothly, and thrillingly it was all conducted in Bulgarian. Kudos to my language tutor as I'd never have got this far without him!

The guy came to chainsaw up the logs one morning just as the men from the electricity board arrived to prune back the trees from the electric cables.

There was some juggling of vehicles so they could manoeuvre round each other, which culminated in a downing of tools as one of the electricity guys showed interest in purchasing the wood cutting guy's car and they all gathered round like men at a barbecue to study the engine and point out its merits and failings (one failing being they all had to push it down my track to jump start the engine):

I'm not sure if the sale went through or not but it was an interesting distraction.

The wood has been a bit of a saga all round this year. I ordered 8 cubic metres which is roughly what I use in a year, at 70 levs per cube. My neighbour, rather smugly I thought, told me I should have ordered from her supplier for 65 levs a cube. I just shrugged as I'm always just happy when the wood arrives and it's all over with for another year. Well, lo and behold, shortly after my wood arrived, she approached me.

You've got lots of wood already, she says, and who knows when Nasko (or Vasko) will be free to bring mine. So, you can let me have two cubes of yours (note, not 'could I have') and I'll give you the money. I was so annoyed! Yes I've got enough wood but I like to order a year in advance so it gets a full year to dry out. I told her if she wanted to order some wood from my guys then I'd sort that for her but no, she was adamant she could just have mine. What can you do? So when the bloke came to chainsaw the logs he first had to separate off 2 cubic metres for the neighbour. He asked me if I was okay with the amount sectioned off but I haven't a clue how to judge volumes of wood, so hopefully he got it right, or at least erred in my favour!

I may have a cunning plan to replenish my stocks. The delivery lorry holds 10 cubes and I think next door but one want to order 8 cubes which will very conveniently leave 2 extra on the load for me, taking me back up to 8. Maybe Bulgaria has some kind of magic in the air where everything works out in the end and I should just sit back and let the chips fall where they may.

Sunday 6th August, 2017
Category: 2017/08
Tags: pond

One of the most relaxing images in the world, I think, is cool water in a stream, trickling over shady, moss covered rocks with electric blue damsel flies delicately hovering here and there and the air coloured green from overhanging trees. Actually I'm probably describing the scene down at the Yantra river where I quite often take the hounds for a walk, and I guess it's the actual sound of the water which is so soothing and restful. So when I was in the UK, one of my purchases was of a small solar powered water fountain, with the idea of making a little pond for it in the garden.

I tested it out in the UK in a basin of water and it worked really well, with different shaped nozzles for varying heights of fountain. The only oddity is that if a cloud covers the sun, the fountain doesn't start up again when the sun reappears. First you have to wave your hand over the solar panel and that triggers it to start again. Annoying in the UK where there's a cloud every two seconds, but not a problem over here.

After one of the bouts of heavy rain recently I began digging a hole for the pond (taking advantage of the softened soil. This was left half finished for over a week as the novelty suddenly wore off, but a new burst of enthusiasm saw me finish the basic shape last week. I'd originally planned to use some of my old summer tyres to edge the pond, but in the end couldn't face the faff of getting someone to saw the tyres up, so just decided to go with a plastic liner.

I've always got tons of nylon sheeting around so I dug out some suitable sized pieces and proceeded to line the hole. A few rocks to hold it all in place and then the magic moment of filling it with water:

The black is some old weedroll fabric which is being used to help hold the soil mound in place.

I was already quite excited by the look of it, and couldn't wait till morning to see how the water would hold. Unfortunately there must have been some tears in the plastic because the water level around the shallow edge soon dropped.

A quick trip to Gabrovo saw me purchase 6 meters of stronger plastic sheeting - enough to fold over to make four layers. Back at the pond I decided to widen the central deep hole and extend the shallow ledge to make it easier (hopefully) to edge with stones and gravel which would protect the plastic. The four layers were then gradually squashed in place and the pond refilled with water:

This time success! The water was still at the same level the next day.

The next stage was to cover all the exposed plastic in weedroll which will hopefully give it some protection from the sun until plants get established.

Then it was time to add the fountain. I put a big brick in the bottom of the deep bit and a flat stone on top. The fountain was wrapped in some nylon material to help filter the water before it enters the pump, and then tied to another stone to stop it floating. Once placed on the brick the spout was just clear of the water.

Add some flat stones around the edge to create ledges for insects and possibly small creatures, and then space for some plant pots:

And here it is so far with some moss added to the stones and a few herbs in the pots.

Eventually I will cover the edges of the pond in soil for it to grass over, and then plant some taller things such as the day lillies or red hot pokers behind. Then I'll add to the plants growing on and around the rocks. But even as it is, laying there in the shade of the tree listening to the steady splash of the water and watching paper wasps coming down for a drink, it's quite perfect!

 

 

 

 

 

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