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

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Thursday 6th July, 2017
Category: 2017/07
Tags: garden

Exactly this time last week I was on a coach from Sofia, just pulling out of Sevlievo bus station on my way into Gabrovo, on a sweltering hot afternoon. I arrived back to temperatures hitting 40 degrees for a couple of days though it's now dropped to much more manageable 30 somethings.

When I get back I always love to see what has and hasn't grown in the garden whilst I've been away, and this year held some great surprises.  For one, the little fig tree which was a very dead looking bare stick when I left it has now produced a big bunch of leaves from the base and has clearly survived the harsh winter. It was also great to see that my redcurrant bush was decorated in big juicy clumps of fat red berries (which I'm currently sprinkling on my cornflakes each morning) and the loganberry still has quite a few fruits on it. After a quick mental tally it seems I've got quite a selection of fruit available in the garden at various times of the year: strawberries, loganberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, figs, apples, plums, cherries, peaches and grapes. The guys who kept the garden tidy while I was away also picked and froze two trays of my cherries, so for the first time ever (after having the trees for 9 years) I can see what the fruit is like!

The new plants all seem to have thrived and a couple of them are quite huge with big yellow flowers. Madly, a lot of the seeds I carefully planted don't seem to have come up at all, but there was a big bunch of self seeded cosmos in the middle of the gravel path believe it or not, so I've gently pulled them out and transferred them to the flower bed. Maybe I need to scatter seeds like cosmos and marigolds in the autumn and just leave them to it, to simulate how the plant sheds its seeds naturally.

The veggies are mostly good though none of the okra seedlings made it, and the raised bed designated for winter veggies (various cabbages, beetroot, leeks) just has a few wilted beetroots and some very small nibbled cabbages. Undeterred I've sown some more kale and turnips which are already sprouting - just need to protect them from sudden bursts of unbearable heat now.

A friend gave me a dozen or so pepper plants to add to mine, which was great, but then dear old baba next door turned up with a bucket of about 10 tomato and (no exaggeration) over 100 pepper plants! Needless to say they got shoved in rather carelessly.

The golden orioles and bee eaters are kings of the sky at the moment and it's brilliant waking up on the balcony to see and hear them swooping around in the early morning coolness.

I haven't caught up with the community centre to see what's been happening in the village but I saw a post from Nadya the mayor saying that a brand new water fountain has been put down by the cemetery. I went and had a look at it this morning and it's a proper work of art.

Hopefully this will mean people won't have to carry plastic bottles of water down there for tending the graves, which will cut down on the amount of rubbish building up.

Monday 12th June, 2017
Category: 2017/06
Tags: festival

The news has been overtaken recently by the doom and gloom of election results and terrorist atrocities, the latter being particularly prominant in local news as the three perpetrators lived not many miles from here. In fact, two days after the attack on London Bridge, I was awoken at about 4am by the sound of an explosion followed by continuous gunfire for several seconds. It turned out to have been part of a police raid on a garage in association with the attack. This is all a million miles from laying awake at 4am in Gostilitsa and hearing continuous birdsong punctuated by the odd volley of barking from a distant dog.

So it came as a great uplifting antidote to it all when my sister and I attended the annual Barking folk festival on Sunday.

The festival is free to everyone and takes place over two days, in and around the grounds of Barking Abbey (the ruins of which date back to 966ad).

We got there at around noon on a windy but gloriously sunny day, and spent the next few hours browsing the stalls and activities, watching the performances, and eating! Just look at this delicious selection of Indian street food:

There were lots of creative activities out for children and adults such as den building, writing poetry, story telling in a yurt, and drumming, but we restricted ourselves to a fierce game of swingball and a round of crazy golf:

(My sister claims to have lost count of her score but I know I won!)

The performances were at a couple of locations around the place. Under a marquee there was dancing by Slovakian children and an Irish dance group, then several folk bands, and out in the street there were other dance groups and a guy who unicycled across a rope whilst being battered by the gusty winds:

Some people were dressed up to entertain the crowds including these two gorgeous butterfly stilt walkers:

At about 4pm there was a parade lead by a group of drummers and children who had been rehearsing earlier, and we all made our way into the abbey grounds themselves:

In here people sat on the ancient walls and grassy slopes facing the staging area, and to the sides there were more stalls selling food and drink (a big fuity cider and pepperoni pizza were devoured as the evening wore on).

The folk groups performing were brilliant and included 'Beans on Toast' and 'Lucy Spraggan'. They were great at involving the audience and played a big range of styles with some songs on very current themes such as the elections and acts of heroism in past terrorist attacks.

I would have loved to have stayed till the end but unfortunately hadn't planned very well and was only dressed in shorts and t-shirt, and as the evening clouded over it got intolerably cold, so we came away at about 7pm.

If I'm in the area for it next year then we'll go better prepared as it really is an event not to be missed.

Thursday 1st June, 2017
Category: 2017/06
Tags: Ryan Air flight London Thames

Guess who dressed as the brace position man on a recent Ryan Air flight?

He must have been sitting in one of the extra leg room seats, as there's no way my head would have gone any further than being mashed against the fold-down tray attached to the seat in front.

Usually I fly back from the UK with Easy-Jet and their unlimited hand baggage weight allowance, but this time it's with Ryan Air who only allow 10kg. However, in true Baldrick style I have a cunning plan. Ryan Air also allow an extra bag - 35x20x20cm - and the website doesn't specify the weight content of said bag. So I've now purchased a bag of exactly those dimensions from Ebay, which will be crammed with all the heaviest non-liquid items I can pack in. I might get in the Guiness Book of Records with the most boxes of Bisto seized on a short-haul flight.

One of the things I love at the moment is that I can often hear seagulls (amidst the buzz from the A13 and the planes taking off from City Airport), a sound that takes me straight back to childhood when we'd arrive at Thorpe Bay (one stop along from the more glitzy Southend) and as you walked up the long road from the station you'd start to hear the gulls and know that very soon you'd catch the first glimpse of sparkling sea. Well even this close to London there are now some really nice spots along the Thames, and one of them involved taking the little ferry across from Tilbury to Gravesend.

If I appear to be holding on tight it's with good reason as there were no safety chains below this bar, just a whopping big gap for sliding into the water through.

And this is the view approaching Gravesend with its cobbled backstreets, historic buildings and small beach area complete with sizeable flock of swans. Don't bring bread to feed them though. That's very much frowned upon nowadays as being of no nutritional value and encouraging the birds to develop a couch potato lifestyle of feet up in front of the nest instead of foraging for their own food. Bags of duck food are often available (at a price) wherever there are fowl to be fed and very tasty it is too. Like rock hard wholegrain branflakes. The birds look a bit glum when they see it though. Must be pining for the glory days of leftover jam sandwiches.

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