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

To save space, the most recent blog entry will have relevant pictures in it, but after that the photos will be moved to Flickr for storage, and a link to them added to the blog post. If you want to see all the photos anyway then visit the Gostilitsa Flickr page here.

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There is now a separate site with information on living in Bulgaria, including:

  • An introduction to Gostilitsa and all it has to offer
  • Day to day practicalities of shopping, paying bills, banking, insurance
  • Healthcare matters for people and pets
  • Public transport and issues relating to car ownership
  • Becoming a Bulgarian resident and learning the language
  • Tourism, public holidays, festivals, places to visit, hiking routes

Click here for the link.


Unfortunately I've been having an increasing number of problems with storage on this site, so I've decide to continue the diary section elsewhere. Click here for the link to the new site.  The old diary entries will remain here for anyone wishing to delve into the murky past

Tuesday 28th February, 2017
Category: 2017/02
Tags: Trifon Zarezan vine festival weather shelves

The weather here has finally returned to normal; most of the snow has gone and the thermometre registers above zero, even at night. The sun shines most days signalling the start of many happy days playing in the garden without first donning multiple layers of woollens and heavy duty wellies.

The moles seem to have gone crazy in my garden whilst all the snow was there, and had actually made tunnels right along the surface of the soil, making it look like the ground was covered in veins, but these have mostly been levelled now although there are always one or two new mounds each morning. They're all in the area where I spent most of last summer killing bindweed, so it will be interesting to see if the naughty moles have conveniently churned up and scattered lots of new bindweed seeds for me!

Two weeks ago today we celebrated Trifon Zarezan which is a vine festival. Each year we head up to the vineyards for the ceremonial first pruning of the vine. The man cuts the vine and the woman pours some of last year's wine onto the cut end in the hopes that the coming year's harvest will be plentiful. Crowns are then made out of the cut segments of vine which people hang up at home, again for good luck.

We were very fortunate this year in that some villagers invited us into their vineyard to watch the pruning, after which we shared in some warmed rakia and pickled veggies. Normally I hate rakia because it just burns my lips instantly, but this warmed stuff (brought out in a little green kettle and served from a tray of green rakia cups) was actually very tasty and went down a treat standing there amidst the snow under a clear blue sky.

I noticed something at the edge of the vineyard like a metal post box, and asked about it. Apparently it's a portable handwashing device commonly used and consists of a container for collecting rainwater and a tap at the bottom to rinse things under. In the old days they'd often take such a thing on picnics and fill it with river water for washing all the plates etc after. The Bulgarian name is 'умивалник' which just means a hand wash stand/basin.

We still did the more ceremonial pruning with people in national costume after which I asked Raicho to explain how you know what bits to prune. He pointed to a place where a branch had been cut last year and said that from this cut piece you get two new shoots growing. On one of these shoots you count off two buds from the base and then snip. This branch will produce grapes for this year. On the other shoot you count off just one bud and snip. This branch will produce grapes for next year. It all sounded quite straightforward but then he complicated it by saying it all depended on the variety of grape, whether they were for eating or for wine, whether it was an overhead vine or just a bushy one... Luckily my vine is only two feet tall and needs no pruning at all yet, though Raicho has volunteered to come and do a personal demonstration when the time comes.

No Bulgarian celebration is complete without the feasting afterwards at which I learned something new about Bulgarian hosting skills. In the UK if someone's drink is getting a bit low it's customary just to top the glass up. Not so in Bulgaria. Here you're supposed to wait until the glass is empty, and here's the reason why. At the cemetery people would often have a little pot of oil with a wick in it to keep a flame burning by a loved one's grave. Each time they visit the grave (maybe once a week) they would top up the pot of oil to keep the flame alive. Naturally the living must be treated differently, so their pots of oil (or rakia) must be empty before being topped up, so as to not be treating them as you would the dead. Little cultural snippets like these fascinate me!

It wasn't long after the vine festival that the snow down my side track melted enough for me to finally arrange a delivery of planks and battens to create my new mega storage system. I hate clutter, especially in the house, and so had the idea of putting up some shelving in the garage, boarding out part of the roof space in there, and also making a huge set of shelves in the shed for all my boxes of treasure (junk I can't quite bring myself to part with yet).

When the wood arrived it still had huge chunks of ice stuck to it in places though I'm hoping that through the summer it will dry out pretty quickly and then I can treat it with preservative.

I'd planned on two long shelves in the garage, though after installing the top one it occurred to me that sometimes I need the car door to be opened right up to the wall, so the second shelf was a half length one (good job I thought of this before making it).

Then lots of planks were heaved up onto the big roof beams to create a nice platform. This is where I can shove big bulky things like empty boxes and spare drainpipes etc.

The project I was most keen to get done though was the shed shelving and actually went to the trouble of doing a few sketches to plan out the construction first. Then came two solid days of measuring, sawing, drilling and assembling, in between shuffling tons of stuff round to make space to work in.

I was going to try and fix it to the upper beams to stop the whole thing potentially toppling over, but in the end I just tied it to the back beam and shoved an old bracket at the front. It occurred to me that a lot of my boxes are pretty heavy, so I made some little reinforcement frames to go up the centre of the whole thing, so now the shelf planks don't bounce at all!

Actually putting everything back in place took longer than I thought, but now it's done I'm thrilled with the results. Everything to hand and lots of clear workbench space for my little projects.

To see pictures from this blog, click here.

Monday 13th February, 2017
Category: 2017/02
Tags: weather woodworm

You know how they say everything happens for a reason? I'm a firm believer in this, even when it includes throwing an entire roast chicken on the floor. Let me enlighten you...

I popped into Gabrovo last Wednesday to get my hair cut and to purchase a set of weighing scales (for people) which were on special offer in Lidl. My current scales are a set I found when I moved into my old house in Barnsley back in 1997, and, being the sort with a needle, I find I can't actually see the result without crouching down, causing the reading to swing wildly between skeletal and obese. These new ones turned out to be even better than I'd thought. Apart from having a nice big digital reading which stays there after you've got off the scales, it also does all sorts of fancy things like tell you your body fat, bone and water content before happily announcing you should treat yourself to a chocolate eclair. Very user friendly.

Anyway, whilst in Lidl I noticed they were selling off whole chickens, so I bought a couple, and when I got home, stuck one in the freezer and the other in the oven to cook. At this time of year the oven is the one in the woodburner, and a couple of hours later it was time to remove the succulent fowl. Just as it was coming out of the oven my grasp on the tray slipped, and the entire thing crashed to the floor amidst the dust and ash of the stove, splattering fat all over my heap of logs. Five second rule though - and it was swiftly retrieved from the grime and drumped back into the pan. Don't worry - I wasn't cooking for guests.

Having sorted the dinner I left the cats to eagerly lap up as much of the puddle of juices as they could, and then later on headed back with a bowl of water and some kitchen spray to try and remove the rest of the mess. It was whilst I was down there scrubbing away that I noticed the corner edge of the bottom step on my staircase looked like someone had had a nibble out of it, as several fragments of wood were sticking out. Had Bella been having a midnight chomp to take her mind off her itchy leg?

I got closer to investigate, and as I touched the bits of wood I was horrified to see a pile of sawdust falling out of the stair. What the heck! Grabbing a screwdriver I then began probing around and discovered that a massive part of the edge of the step had been completely eaten by a very fat woodworm.

The amount of sawdust coming out, and the depth the screwdriver could go was quite alarming.

Fearing the entire staircase was under attack I then had a good stab with the screwdriver all over it but luckily didn't find any other crumbly bits. I'm sincerely hoping that it just so happened that this piece of wood already had a little woodworm egg in it when the carpenter started making the stairs, rather than it being an infestation after it was finished and installed.

I must admit I've been finding a few of the horrible longhorn beetles in the house this winter, but had assumed they were coming from the logs for the fire, because when I've split some of the logs they've had a lot of longhorn larvae in them. Needless to say the beetles are being destroyed as soon as they're seen and hopefully before they've had a chance to mate and lay eggs.

If I hadn't dropped the lovely roast chicken, I'd never have known!

I'm not surprised the beetles are coming out in the lovely warmth of the house, as it's still absolutely bitter cold outside. This makes doing laundry a bit difficult as I discovered the other day when my jeans decided to come back indoors by themselves.

To see a picture of the walking jeans plus others from this blog, click here.



Wednesday 8th February, 2017
Category: 2017/02
Tags: Bella vet operation

Yikes! A couple of weeks ago the car went in for its radiator replacing, and whilst I waited in a cafe I began writing about my adventures of being stuck in the snow and having four guys come and push me out (it was the car that was stuck, not literally me - it would NOT take 4 guys to push me out despite all the Christmas food indulgences) and now that's already old news! So instead, I will regale you with news of Bella's operation which she had last Thursday - there, only a week behind.

As you may know, when I found her back in October she had an old leg injury which meant her foot was twisted inwards and she couldn't use it to walk on.

When I took her for neutering, the vet said he thought there was a good chance he could fix the leg by pinning it, which I planned to get done at the start of January. Of course all the perpetual snow put paid to that plan, but since time was marching on I decided to crack on with her treatment. Hence the failed attempt to drive my car up the steep track from the garage onto the road, and the need for rescue from passing villagers.

The vet works some days in Sevlievo, and that is where they have the better facilities for x-rays etc, so last Thursday we had an appointment there for 12.30.  Bella dutifully had nothing to eat the night before, and no water in the morning, but, not being 100% sure of where to go, I decided we'd go in the morning, giving me a chance to confirm where the vet office was and also get some shopping done.

I had one stab at finding the place (with the aid of the satnav) but it just looked like a housing estate with blocks of flats and no shops, so after a quick circuit back into town I finished shopping and then had a second run at finding the vet. This time, at the blocks of flats, I accosted a passing woman and as luck would have it, she'd actually taken her cat to the vet when it fell from her apartment last summer (thankfully the cat survived, albeit with only 8 lives intact) and so she jumped in the car to show me where it was.

It turned out I'd got the right area but it was behind all the flats and not obvious from the main road. Once there I took Bella in and met Momchil, the vet who works there. Dimiter (the Dryanovo vet I usually see) arrived shortly thereafter and we took Bella into the back room for the x-ray.

Now I'd assumed they would give her some sort of sedative to relax her, but no, they just tried to manhandle her onto the mat amidst my warnings that she could bite (which Dimiter already knows only too well). Of course Bella was having none of this and began snapping at them. Dimiter went off and returned with a bit of bandage which he used to tie her mouth shut, and then they tried to lay her down again. Within two seconds Bella had removed the muzzle, sunk her teeth into Momchil's hand and then weed and pooped all over the mat in fright. Poor dog!

More bandages were brought out and between the three of us we got Bella onto the cleaned mat and I held her bad leg still while Momchil x-rayed it. I noticed how the two vets both wore protective jackets because of the radiation, but didn't offer anything to me. Hope I've not had a Hulk-like overdose of radiation.

They discussed the x-ray whilst Bella and I waited in the waiting room, and then came out with their decision. Dimiter said that originally Bella's leg had been an open break (can you imagine having a broken arm with the bone sticking out and just dealing with it) but that they could operate, tidy the broken ends, and use a metal plate to twist the bones straight again. The problem would be that because of the age of the injury, Bella's tendons are now very short and rigid and the leg will be shorter than the other one, and she might never gain enough flexibility to use the paw properly. There is a physiotherapist though who will come to your house and do the necessary exercises, so I said that while ever there was a chance Bella could regain the use of her leg it was worth the try. Dimiter then gave Bella the anaesthetic and as she dozed off he began to shave her leg.

He said the op would take at least two hours, so I left her there, dashed home to unpack my shopping and put stuff in the freezer, grabbed a quick sandwich and then drove back to the vets. It was good timing because literally as I pulled onto the housing estate he phoned to say she was ready.

When I arrived he carried her into the waiting room where she lay on the floor, her leg still dripping blood. I was a bit shocked because I thought she'd have a plaster cast put on, but he'd just brought her out like that to show me what he'd done.

He showed me the photos taken during the operation of the plate inside her leg (gory) and pointed out the pin which was visible on her wrist. He then carried her back in to clip her nails and put a dressing on.  She didn't have a cast but just a tight bandage and then a plastic outer layer which supposedly had some sort of nasty taste to it to stop her trying to get at the wound.  He said it will take about 40 days for the wound and bone to heal and after that she could begin physio, though obviously I'd take her for another x-ray (God help us) first.  You could already see how the leg itself is now straighter:

Back home I managed to carry a wimpering Bella into the house and settled her on the rug where she dozed on and off for the rest of the day.  Alfie and the cats were all excited to come and visit her, though I suspect Alfie was more interested in the comfy cushions than his sick friend.

As Friday wore on I noticed that Bella's paw was looking quite swollen, so on Saturday I phoned Dimiter, and he told me to remove all the bandages. Bella was very patient as I gently snipped into the coverings and removed them a bit at a time, letting her have a quick lick at the bits which were stuck to her leg by dried blood.

As soon as it was all off she enjoyed a quick lick at the wound before I put a loose bit of clean bandage and an old sock round it for protection.

She seems happy enough at the moment, though disgraced herself by managing to get the sock and bandage off unbeknownst to me and licking the wound so much she made it look sore.  She is currently wearing the towel of shame to stop her getting at it.

To see Bella's story in all its gory details, click here.




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