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2013/08
Wednesday 28th August, 2013
Category: 2013/08
Tags: MOT

Today I had the pleasure of facing my first Bulgarian MOT without the aid of an interpreter. Usually in the UK I had my MOT done alongside the yearly service and the greatest worry was always what the horrendous repair bill was going to come to this time. This year the worry was of a different nature: the pit.  Let me back-track a little.

Just like in the UK the MOT must be done yearly (brand new vehicles are exempt for the first 3 years) although the checks are a little less detailed here. When I first bought the car last year, we had to take it to KAT to register the vehicle in my name and as part of that process it had an MOT. Because I was with someone else at the time I let him do all the talking and didn't really take much notice of what was going on.  The MOT card was dated 5th September but having no idea how it works here (Can you get it MOTd early and have it dated like the old one? What if you leave it till the due date and it needs work doing?) I thought I'd play safe and get it done early.  Andrea told me of an MOT centre in Dryanovo so this morning I picked her up and we headed off. 

My car of course was all shiny clean as in my (female) mind this is the main criteria the MOT people look for, and the dodgy left tyre was nicely pumped up.  We pulled into the test centre and saw a queue of 4 other vehicles waiting to go in.  I wasn't sure if you were supposed to make an appointment to strolled across to the garage to find out.  That's when my heart sank.

The MOT man was in the middle of testing a vehicle, the owner of which had to drive back and forth into various positions along the longest pit I've ever seen.  It looked the equivalent of walking across a tightrope. Does it count as a fail if you accidentally drive your car down into the inspection pit? If I cry enough, will the mechanic get into the car and drive it for me? I'm such a wuss. It reminded me of the times I'd turn up at a client's house for their driving lesson only to discover the only parking spot was a tiny gap between other vehicles at the side of the road. On these occasions you could guarantee said client would already be outside with a bunch of neighbours thus giving me a terrifying audience as I attempted to parallel park wearing the most nonchalant expression I could muster. Miraculously the parking always went smoothly; the voyage across the pit might prove a little more tricky.

Eventually it was my turn and I was beckoned in through the garage doors. I had to put my entire trust in the mechanic as he waved me left and right trying to get me to line my wheels up and the test began.

First he tests the exhaust emissions and then you have to drive the front wheels onto the rollers. He told me to brake slowly and this was repeated several times. I then had to drive further forward so the back wheels were on the rollers and this time he wanted me to put the handbrake on. As soon as I felt the rollers moving I pulled on the handbrake. No, wait, wait! he cried, and we tried again, this time with me waiting for him to give the signal. Next was the headlights, brake lights and indicators - so far so good.  The next thing was to drive forward once more following his hand signals. I felt the car go up a steep bump and then roll down the other side. His expression was just a touch weary as he motioned for me to go backwards. Apparently I needed to stop the car right on top of the bump. We repeated this with the rear wheels though I've no idea what this check could have been for other than maybe weighing the car.  More beckoning as I inched my way further across the pit of doom. He came round to the driver's side and asked me to jiggle the wheel back and forth and pointed out the knocking noise it made when I did this. Oh Lord, I thought, this is where he tells me it's failed, but thankfully no. He climbed down into the pit and made me jiggle the wheel again. Tony later told me that it could be there's a bit of play in the steering which might worsen over time. I will add this to my list of things to mention when I get the car serviced before winter. Wheel jiggling done he came round to my side again and asked me to come and pay. Yes, it's passed! Another mechanic removed the old MOT sticker from the car windscreen and put on the new one whilst I went inside to collect my blue certificate, lichna card and registration documents. Of course there was still the rest of the pit to drive across in order to leave the garage. The mechanic beckoned me again, once more telling me left a bit right a bit with his hand signals. At one point he stopped watching me and bent down to pick up something from the ground. Needless to say I didn't move until he looked up again! So, that's the MOT for another year, and all for the price of 34 levs and several years off my heart's life span.

Thursday 22nd August, 2013
Category: 2013/08
Tags: language

I've just finished my Skype language lesson for this week which provided much hilarity for my tutor. For homework I quite often just do a piece of free writing about my week and we use that to discuss the grammar which crops up. This week I wrote about ordering a mosquito net off Ebay. Now some foreign words just translate literally into Bulgarian and sound exactly the same as they do in English... Фейсбук, facebook, грейпфрут, grapefruit, уикенд, weekend... Unfortunately, when I applied the same thing to Ebay, I focused on the letters instead of the sounds. It turns out that Ebay should be written as Ибей, which sounds like 'Ebay' and means Ebay. Just swapping the letters of Ebay for Bulgarian ones produces Ебай which apparently means fuck!

Sunday 18th August, 2013
Category: 2013/08
Tags: garden swimming pool

I'm sitting on my bed enjoying a second successive mug of tea, feeling the after prickle of several nettle stings up my right arm, but satisfied in the knowledge the garden is once more tidy. The moving and stacking of the spare bricks took several days (admittedly I probably only worked for a couple of hours on each of those days) as the heat soon sends me running for the sun lounger. After I got the bricks stacked I then made use of the dozens of empty 'var' bags to clear up as much of the leftover rubble and broken bricks as possible. (Var is short for varov and is a kind of mortar mix which can be used for pointing, fixing ridge tiles or rendering walls when added to cement). This morning I then went over the garden with the strimmer and everything is all flat and tidy once more.

The nettling came when I went round with the little pruning shears getting all the bits the strimmer couldn't reach - mainly at the very bottom of the garden where there's a little channel for rainwater to drain away. This is also where some sort of huge green pumpkin plant seeded itself on the compost heap and has been sending out long tendrils all along said channel. There's a big old tree stump right in the corner, at least a couple of feet across, and it's been sprouting some weird dark brown bracket fungus. I remember seeing one of these funguses (fungi??) before but the colour of it made me think a workman had emptied the remains of a tin of brown pain down there. Apparently not - this is their true colour. No, I won't be experimenting with cooking it.

I've used some of the big stone slabs I have to make a little seat at the bottom of the garden for when I talk to Baba Ivanka over the fence. She complimented me on it, but then went on to shout about the wall and how it's on the verge of collapse and the next heavy rain will send everything falling down. I always listen with the distinct impression that I'm being thoroughly told off but then she smiles and gives me eggs and some sweet potatoes. She asked me to go and check if I was receiving the TV channels and it appears we now only have BNT and not BTV. I'm not sure if this is part of the impending digital switchover come early or just a temporary fault. I'm hoping to splash out on a smallish flat screen TV of some kind which I can connect to my laptop as I mostly watch English programs on that at the moment. 

I had an odd experience yesterday when I went into Dryanovo to get some fruit and veg at the market. It's peach season and there were stalls selling nothing but peaches of varying sizes and qualities. I bought 3kg as I want to have a go at bottling some for the winter. Hopefully Stefka, Gancho's wife, is going to give me some cookery demos. Anyway, having bought the fruit and a few other things I headed back to the car. I'd parked in the long coach bays outside the Park Dryanovo hotel but on my return found that a row of other cars had formed behind me, so that each coach bay contained two vehicles, thus boxing me in entirely. Unable to go anywhere I decided to walk up to the CBA supermarket to get the other things I needed and hope that at least one of the car owners would have finished shopping by the time I got back. It was in CBA that the odd thing occurred. When I got to the check-out there was a man in front of me buying 15 bags of sugar, presumably for jam/bottled fruit making. He was chatting to the cashier and told her to serve me whilst they talked. I only had a couple of items but the girl asked if I wanted a carrier bag to which I replied 'Da' yes. The man then turned to me and asked, in Bulgarian, if we did this sort of thing in England, gesticulating to his heap of sugar. How did he know I was English!? Is my accent so appalling that I gave my nationality away from uttering one tiny little word? This has me intrigued. Maybe us Brits have a certain 'look' about us that makes us easily spotted or something.

The weather has been seriously hot these past few days - mid to high 30s - and after a lovely afternoon in Keith's swimming pool the other week I've been tempted to try out the public pools. There's one just opposite the Park Hotel in Dryanovo (4 levs weekdays, 6 at weekends, open 10-6) complete with snack bar, sun loungers and umbrellas, though being in the town I can imagine it gets busy at times. On Thursday I decided to venture out by myself but being a little timid opted for what I hoped would be a quieter venue; the pool at the Dryanovo Hotel near the Dryanovo monastery. Just as you turn off on the road leading down to the monastery, take the first left again at the sign for the hotel. Park in the hotel car park and then head down the steps in the far left corner which take you down to the pools. It's a beautiful setting surrounded by forest with towering cliffs as a backdrop. There are two pools - an adult and a children's one - with lots of sun loungers and umbrellas, and a large grassy area if you don't want a bed. It costs 2 levs to get in (1 for children) and another 2 if you want a lounger. There are showers, changing rooms and toilet as well as snack bars. When I got there it was about 1.30pm and there were only about 6 people there. I plonked my things down on a bed and put the umbrella up, glancing furtively round to see where you paid and wondering why no one was swimming. A woman came up to me to take payment (I hadn't noticed her on the way in) and having sorted this I settled on the bed. Strange how when you're on your own, the four or five yards to the steps into the pool can feel like a mile under the gaze of the other people. Still, knowing that if some unknown disaster befell me I could simply never go there again, I casually made my way to the pool edge and got in. Oh, such delight to be in the cool water with the sun beaming down on me! It really is lovely to swim around with the forest so close by and the pool has such a gentle gradient that you can pretty much touch the bottom from anywhere. I spent the whole afternoon there and although it got a bit busier later on it was never heaving with people and everyone had plenty of space. I will definitely be making regular visits there again.

   

 

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