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2014/05
Friday 23rd May, 2014
Category: 2014/05

I've been HUGELY neglectful of this site lately so time to make amends! I'm actually back in the UK for a few weeks to earn a little money and to catch up with friends and family.  My sister is letting me crash at her place in exchange for helping to demolish the garden and tackle a few other little DIY projects.  Three cheers for big sis!  I must admit it struck me as the plane touched down at Standsted that I am exactly one of the people Nigel Farage and co seem so terrified of; arriving from Bulgaria for work, demanding free housing and paying no taxes!  My work is much nicer than the stereotypical lettuce picking however, as I'm here to mark exam papers in the comfort of home with unlimited and unrationed supplies of tea on hand. Ah, bliss.

I say 'pay no taxes' though at the moment that isn't strictly true.  I'm automatically taxed at 20% and then have to go cap in hand to HMRC and ask for some, all or any of it back.  That was one of the tasks on my today's to do list.  There's something about contacting the tax office which is, I imagine, a little like walking into a Latin oral exam having done no revision... or in fact attended any of the lessons.  The one plus side was the cheery Scottish accent of the chap who attempted to guide me in the right direction.  Have HMRC out-sourced all their call centres to Scotland because of the soothing nature of their tones? Kudos to you Mr Taxman if you did because it works.  Perhaps I should say that the Scottish tones involved were definitely more Dr Finlay's Casebook and not Train Spotting in nature!  

Actually, the more I think about it the more I realise that this 'calm the caller with a cheery voice' strategy is probably true.  When I contacted Asda mobile I was assisted by another 'wee Scots lassy' who made me feel like I was popping round for a cuppa instead of tackling the issue of transferring an old number to a new sim and getting a 'bundle' activated.  I've never had a phone bundle before so I'm curious as to how it works.  Do they warn you when it's running out or does the phone just die? Said bundle includes 100 minutes and 2000 texts which would take me a good year to use up - what a shame it's only valid for a month.

I have my lists of things I'd like to buy while I'm over here and I'm trying very hard to resist the temptation to go spend crazy.  Baggage allowance, baggage allowance... remember the lousy baggage allowance! If I remind myself of this often enough I'll hopefully not fill my case with unnecessary weighty jars of cranberry sauce and can instead focus on the year's supply of tea bags and some hefty slabs of decent cheese instead.

The cranberry sauce was indeed last year's mistake.  To try and get the weight of my baggage down I even took it out of the jars and packed it all into a large yoghurt pot sealed with clingfilm.  It was still too much so I had to leave it behind in my sister's fridge.  It's still there!

Wednesday 7th May, 2014
Category: 2014/05
Tags: goat milk DIY garden

How quickly I forget the recent bad weather as I sprawl on the balcony in shorts and vest top before rolling over into a shady patch to escape the heat!  Of course the glorious weather is doing wonders for the weeds which are now about knee high all over the garden.  My little veggies? Well the best I can say is that they aren't dead, but they certainly don't seem to have progressed much from their seedling phase.  Actually that's not strictly true. The beetroots are putting on more and bigger leaves and the second lot of french bean seeds are now poking through. The most worrying veggies are the cucumber seedlings which look very small and spindly still.  I might cheat and buy some big healthy ones from the market on Friday if I see any!  The tomatoes will be planted out this weekend and are now looking much greener and stronger than before.  The flower tubs are all doing well and I can't wait till everything blooms in the summer.

I've now completely finished plastering round the windows inside and out and they look pretty good all cleaned up.  I was worried about Molly trying to climb on the window ledges in the middle of the night (as she usually does) but thankfully she resisted temptation and the plaster set smoothly. After being re-invigorated by the sunbathing this afternoon I had a sudden mad fit and decided to use spare roofing tiles to edge the gravel path across the garden.  My idea was that the tiles will make a more durable edge than the plastic sheeting allowing me to strim right up to the edge of the path without damaging it.  An hour later and 20 or so wonky tiles were in place, wedged between clay and weeds on one side and gravel on the other.  Time will tell how good an idea it turns out to be.

The cows milk has finished for a month or so while she has her calf but luckily I came across a delicious alternative yesterday - goat's milk.  I went along in the morning with a friend who was also interested in buying some, and were both welcomed into the house.  Nothing like a 'get to know you' chat over a warm drink and some very moreish slices of home made cheese.  I can see that I will need to exert every ounce of willpower when I start making my own cheese as it's so delicately flavoured and moist I could literally sit and eat the entire thing in one go which would be quite calhorrific!  Dogs and cats abounded though I have to say my favourite was a sweet old hound called Dan who liked to get as much fuss as he possibly could.  I'll certainly be taking up the offer to join them on walks wearing very old clothes of course!

We went out to the little barn where the goats are kept overnight and my eyes were instantly drawn to the tiny new addition - a little white goat only two weeks old but already with tiny knobbles developing where her horns will be.  There were two goats to be milked and Sue made it look very easy as the containers were rapidly filled.  The goats were then let out into the sunshine and we went back indoors to measure the milk into our bottles.  As soon as I got home I just had to gulp some down straight out of the bottle to try it - oh so lovely, warm and creamy.  This morning after it had been in the fridge there was a good layer of cream on the top which was carefully poured over the cornflakes.  What better way to start the day!

Monday 5th May, 2014
Category: 2014/05
Tags: charity walk

Yesterday was the epic charity walk in aid of Cancer Research and the Gabrovo Association of Cancer Patients and Friends.  We were exceptionally lucky with the weather and apart from a few spots of rain in the first five minutes the day was sunny but with clouds to help keep it cool, because when the sun shone full on, boy was it hot!  Would you believe that within an hour or so of everyone finishing the walk the skies darkened and there was an almighty thunder storm accompanied by huge hailstones - would NOT want to have been caught out in that.

We all gathered at the Thirsty Lizard bar in Slaveykovo for registration where we collected our t-shirts and were allocated a walker number for the check points.

I was number 32 which was quite fortunate, because if I lost my number I could have looked at my bra for a reminder ;)

We gathered outside and were welcomed by Jan and Sally who had organised the whole thing and then heard a speech by Maria, the mayor of Gostilitsa and Slaveykovo.  The sun began to shine as the Gostilitsa Babas sang songs to spur us on our way...

... and then it was time for the warm up exercises led by Jan.  

At about 9.15am a river of yellow t-shirts headed off up the path out of Slaveykovo and the walk began.

Initially most people kept together but after a while we thinned out as each person walked to their own pace.  It was nice though in that I found myself walking alongside people I don't normally get to talk to, or in some cases meeting for the first time, and the varied conversations passed the time nicely.  The first section of the walk was across country, passing yet more beautiful wild flowers to add to my photo collection, including an orchid (so I was told).  We made our way down into the village of Yantra where the first check point was set up and where you could grab a bottle of water and better yet a big chunk of juicy orange.  Guess which I opted for!

I must admit my right hip was beginning to ache already at this point which wasn't something I'd anticipated at all.  I'd prepared for aching knees and ankles yet so far they were fine.  The next section of the walk was probably the most tiring and I soon lagged behind the people I'd been walking with.  It was a 7km constant uphill climb along the road and at times really seemed to go on forever.  Hurrah for the marshals in their cars along the way with more bottles of water and chocolates!  Mmmm sweet sugar rush to get me along the next mile.  As the little huts at the edge of vegetable plots came into view I knew we were nearly at the next village and at the point where the road would level out and then descend into Gostilitsa; the hardest part was over.

I'd originally planned to stop here and have my sarnies but to be honest I wasn't that hungry and knew that if I sat down for any length of time I'd probably not get up again, so I elected to carry on (after another juicy orange of course).  It was lovely the number of Bulgarians who asked us what the walk was about and then wished us well as we passed by.

It didn't seem to take long to get to Gostilitsa at all at which point I dumped half of my belongings in one of the marshal's cars which was a relief to my shoulders.  I was quite hungry by now so had a couple of sandwiches en route.  It seemed funny to be walking past my house (and ever so tempting to quickly divert there) but there was only a short way to go now and I was determined to finish even if it killed me.

At about 3pm we dipped down into the centre of Slaveykovo where the finish line awaited us and lots of congratulations from the people already there - I'd done it!!  In the bar I bought a very welcome cold glass of lemonade and then tucked into the enormous spread put on by Von, Debbie and Milena.  So far the total for the walk was about £3000 - an amazing result and way over expectations.

There were huge protests by my body that evening though as my hips seized up completely and it hurt to lie on my side.  It was a bit worrying and made me wonder if I'm heading for a hip replacement by the time I'm 60 but thankfully the pain and stiffness had pretty much gone by the following lunchtime - phew!

I'm so pleased to have taken part in such a momentous thing, and full of admiration to the organisers and those who made the day run like clockwork.

 My certificate!

 Map of the route.

Sadly there's no photo of my Star Walkers t-shirt as it's in the wash... covered in orange juice and chocolate!

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