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

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Thursday 14th September, 2017
Category: 2017/09
Tags: renvotions heating chimney

It's that exciting time of year again when a fairly substantial renovation project takes place and there's lots of noise and muck and chaos and wishing I'd never embarked on the work before the final basking in pleasure at the new improvements. I'm currently in the middle of the process, though the end is pleasantly in view.

This year I decided to make some major changes to the heating arrangements, in particular to the fire in the living room. When the house was first renovated back in 2005/6 they put in an open fire place in the corner of the room as at the time I was only ever planning to come here for sunny holidays. My how things have changed!

This is it just before the final plastering over the chimney breast.

It was a lovely feature (though admitedly I never particularly liked the giraffe stonework around it) but never a practical source of heating. The smoke used to puff back into the room now and then, and of course 90% of the heat just wooshed up the chimney. Added to that the enormous draft that would come down into the room in winter when the fire wasn't lit (which is why it's been boarded over with a big sheet of plastic for the past 5 years) and it became nothing more than an ornament.

Since having the wood burner installed I haven't needed the open fire anyway, except on those rare occasions when the electricity is off for more than a few hours. You see my wood burner runs the central heating, and when the electricity goes off the battery back up only keeps the water pump running for a couple of hours. After that I need to let the fire die down or else run the risk of the water in the back boiler overheating and exploding. So I needed some kind of non-electrical back up.

My first idea was to have a glass door made for the open fire, but then I thought well the heat's still just going up the chimney. The second idea was to buy a small stove and sit it in the space where the opening is, but it was quite hard sourcing a fire of the right dimensions, and most of them only had small windows so I wouldn't see the flames very much. The third plan was...

Ha! It's completely gone. Yes, I decided to get rid of the old fire completely and have bought a nice stove to go in that corner - one with a really big glass door and which I can also cook on top of (again thinking if the power's off for any big amount of time).

It took the guys a lot of hard work getting the big old flue pipe out as it was a custom made huge steel thing that weighed a ton. It's now sitting in the garden awaiting the time when I can find someone to give me a few bob for it.

After three days the walls were all neatly plastered and the floor smoothed over, and I've now painted all that area. So now they can come back and actually put the stove in position and fit the new flue pipes. I can't wait! It'll also be really handy say in early October when I might want to take the chill off for an hour or two in the evening but without having the whole house heated by central heating.

In the other corner I wanted the wood burner moved so it's at an angle to the walls so that the heat would be more directed into the room and not towards the front door. This meant draining all the water/anti-freeze down whilst he re-cut the pipes and then filled it again. I also have a lovely new UPS (which provided the battery back up) as last time the power went off there was a horrible burning smell emanating from the old one which was swiftly unplugged!

Once the new stove is in place I can scrub the floors and then give them a new lick of paint and sealant, and then it was all be deliciously bright and cosy for winter evenings laying by the fire, watching TV, crocheting... perfection!

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.

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