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

Thursday 21st April, 2016
Category: 2016/04
Tags: hospital

Today saw the 'hopefully' final stage of my medical adventure, as I travelled back to Pleven for the removal of the plastic support splints from my nose.

I'd been dreading this moment but only because the end of my nose was still pretty sore to touch and I knew the doctor would be using those nasty metal pliers to prise my nostrils open. Ouch! As to the plastic splint, well I imagined it to be something maybe around 2cm long which was somehow stuck over the newly repaired valve in my nose as a kind of shield. How wrong I was.

I arrived at the clinic just after 9am and luckily the waiting room was pretty empty, so after only a few minutes wait it was my turn to go in. Dr Marinov asked me how I was feeling, before opening his cabinet of goodies and rummaging around for suitable instruments. With giant tweezers in hand he approached at which point I must have visibly tensed because he looked at me sadly and said 'I know.'

Oh, he knew alright, and it was probably just as well that I didn't! The expected pain came as he shoved the end of my nose upwards in order to get a good view up my nostrils - that was bad enough - but then with the tweezers he gripped what felt like the entire bone in my nose and proceeded to try and yank it out.

I can only liken it to giving birth via your nose. Tears were soon flowing and after a few minutes of increasing stress and pain I was actually moaning aloud. Another nasty tug from somewhere up near my brain and the wretched splint was dropped into the dish I was holding under my nose. When I saw the size of it I was horrified. It was literally the length of my nose!

No wonder my nose had felt stuffy all week, it was a wonder I had room to breathe at all.

'Time for a little break' said the doctor, possibly sensing I was on the verge of imploding from the pain, so I sat and mopped my tears, looking at my face in the mirror on the opposite wall, wishing I was back home.

'Ready to start again?' he asked after a minute or so, and gamely I nodded. Apparently there was a second plastic beast up my other nostril though thankfully this one came out rather more quickly and so the pain was much briefer though still mighty intense.

As if that wasn't horrible enough, he then rummaged back in the cabinet and came out with what looked like an enormous needle. Dear God, now what was going to happen? He switched something on and delved into my nose with the needle at which point I realised it was a tiny vacuum cleaner which he dabbed around with sucking up blood and goodness knows what else. Although not actually painful it still felt horrible because it was so far up inside my nose.

A few more dabs around and it was all over with. At this point I think shock set in and I started feeling horrible hot and light headed. Please don't let me faint, I thought, that's what caused all the trouble in the first place! Doc looked at me rather worriedly from his computer and asked if I was alright, whilst I wondered if it would be acceptible to curl up on his carpet for five minutes.

He printed off a few forms - one set for me and one for me to give to my GP - along with another prescription for a saline nasal spray to help clean my nostrils, and then apologised for all the pain. Being thoroughly British I thanked him for inflicting the agony and headed back to the safety of my car.

Remarkably my nose is already feeling much better, although still numb and a bit weird at the end, and best of all I am breathing clearly through both nostrils. Would I ever have a cosmetic nose job? Hell no!

Sunday 17th April, 2016
Category: 2016/04
Tags: hospital

Today's blog will read like a tame episode of Casualty, but I just wanted to capture the experience of being an in-patient in a Bulgarian hospital. Regular readers will know I've had some trouble breathing through one nostril after a fall last year and after several visits to various doctors and specialists I finally got an appointment to have an operation to repair the valve which was the source of the problem. I've added some brief notes in the 'Practicalities' section for anyone who may be considering seeking specialist medical advice over here and wants to know how to go about it. On with the show...

I was told to arrive at the hospital in Pleven at 8am on Wednesday and to bring toiletries, pyjamas, slippers and my lichna card. After reading various bits of info on the hospital site and listening to advice from Bulgarians I also took a full set of bedding, some plastic plates, cup and set of cutlery amongst other things. The cup as it turns out was definitely essential, the other items not so.

The hospital is located in the middle of a beautiful parkland so the drive to it through the trees was all very soothing. I actually got there at about 7.30am so pulled into the car park and decided to wait a while. I hadn't been there long when a car from VT pulled in and a couple got out, one of whom looked like she might be a patient too so I decided to go in with them.

At the reception desk I was told to head up to the third floor to be admitted to the ENT ward. Because I was early I was asked to wait in the waiting area until the staff briefing between night and day shift was done. I was really lucky because I met Laura, a nurse who has worked in the USA for 14 years and was just finishing night shift. She told me she'd be around over the next few days and would pop in to see me now and then.

Time to be admitted and after putting on plastic shoe covers I was allowed onto the ward which is only accessible with a swipe card. The first job was to hand over my lichna card (presumably so I couldn't escape) and to give a few details such as an emergency contact number (always reassuring that they feel the need for this!) and then sign several pages in a booklet. I then had a blood sample taken after which I was shown to my room and asked to give a urine sample.

The room contained three beds (funnily enough Irilka the woman from the car park was to be my room mate for the time I was there) had an ensuite shower room and toilet, a table and chairs and a balcony looking onto the park and Pleven in the distance. There was also a TV on the wall currently playing cartoons for the little 4 year old who WS being discharged that morning after having her tonsils out.

Irilka and I weren't too sure what to do but we decided to get our pyjamas on ready for action. Dr Marinov, the surgeon, came to see us one at a time, and after another quick view up my nose said that there would be blood tests etc done first and then the operation.

Soon a nurse came to take me downstairs where I had an ECG with little suction cups all over my chest and clamps on my wrists and ankles, then my blood pressure was taken. After waiting outside for a doctor to come, I then went back in for her to ask me if I had any allergies, medical conditions, previous operations etc.  I was then handed the big booklet with all the printouts and told to take it back upstairs to the ward. It was quite reassuring having Irilka around at that point because I could follow her lead a bit.

Time to wait in the bedroom again and then the moment came. The nurse arrived with a big paper medical gown and told me to take my jammies off and then helped me into the gown. Fortunately it was big enough to wrap right round my back too to save any embarrassment of walking half naked through the waiting room and down in the public lift.

I must admit nerves kicked in a bit as we descended in the lift but all the staff were very nice and friendly, asking me what village I lived in, did I work etc to take my mind off things. Arriving in theatre I once again put on plastic things over my feet and a hair cover before walking past Dr Marinov and into the operating room. The anaesthetist came over and again chatted as final preparations were made. I do wish they wouldn't tell you something might hurt as she did before the cannula was inserted into my hand (in the end it didn't hurt at all) and then the anaesthetic was pumped in. I feel my vision getting giddy and the last thing I remember was her asking me how I felt and me saying I felt drunk!

As I came to and realised I was still in the operating room my first thought was I'd woken too soon and the operation was still going on. I must let them know, I thought, and made a groaning noise at which point it occurred to me that the op was all over and I was coming round as planned. My throat felt all horrible and flemmy and I couldn't breathe properly which made me stress a bit, but the doctor kept telling me to cough, which I eventually did, and cleared it. I was then taken back up in the lift to my room where I was lifted onto my bed and hooked up to a saline drip to recover.

Remarkably at that point I felt quite alright, albeit a bit tired and fuzzy headed. Only an hour later lunch arrived and the empty drip was removed and I sat down to enjoy soup and some pork stew. Irilka came back from her nose op a while later and by evening she too was out of bed and we ate dinner together - baked chicken, rice and an orange.

I must just mention two of the major differences between being in hospital here and in the UK. One was no ID tag on me, just my initials written in biro on my arm. The second and perhaps more important was that apart from one cup of tea I was never offered anything to drink at all during my entire stay! Thankfully I had brought about a litre of squash ready made with me, and with my cup I was able to get water from the bathroom after that, but it seemed very odd that hydration was something they didn't seem concerned about at all.

Naturally my nose felt all numb and swollen and bled occasionally, and I also felt quite headachy so the nurse gave me a sachet of painkiller to take. It wasn't long after this that the sickness kicked in and after running to the bathroom I saw the return of my dinner. That was during the early hours of Thursday morning and pretty much for 24 hours thereafter I just felt nauseas, headachy and tired.

Breakfast on Thursday was some sweet tea, bread, a big chunk of spam and cirene cheese, none of which I could face eating so I just had the tea then lolled in bed with a cold wet flannel over my eyes. Lunch came with a bowl of soup and some kind of rice dish. I knew I really needed something inside me so had a few spoonfuls of soup, but no, up they came again straight away. Sorry Irilka! The nurse had given me a syringeful of something to help with the sickness and maybe by evening it had begun to work because I managed to nibble some bread and keep it down at teatime.

During the Thursday Dr Marinov came to see us again and removed all the wadding from my nose and I took my first clear breath through my reconstructed nostril - it worked! Having him open my nostrils with the metal plier things wasn't nice and definitely brought tears to my eyes.

By Friday morning the nausea had completely gone so I was able to manage breakfast - a weird sugary macaroni thing with chunks of cirene in it, though oddly enough it tasted okay. We were expecting to have to wait till about 2pm for our final check before being discharged but Dr Marinov came at around 10.30am. Another painful look up my nose and a prescription of antibiotics and two nasal sprays to use until Thursday when I have to go back to the clinic to have the support plate removed - SO not looking forward to that unless he uses some sort of major nose numbing spray first!

All signed off and with my lichna card back I then went down to reception to pay - 350 levs for the operation and 11.60 for two nights stay in hospital - and then it was off home to loving animals, proper tea and my own bed.

I have to say the experience was made as nice as any hospital stay can be. The staff - nurses, doctors, cleaners, cooks, were all friendly and cheerful and the surroundings were spotless and bright. I hope I never need to again, but I wouldn't hesitate about going back.

Sunday 10th April, 2016
Category: 2016/04
Tags: hospital Finlay garden compost wigwam veggies

A great adventure looms on the horizon for me as on Wednesday I will be going to hospital for the nose operation! Dobrina phoned the doctor for the fourth time last Wednesday and finally got things organised. I have to arrive at the hospital in Pleven at 8am having had nothing to eat or drink, and will be in for a maximum of three days. According to the surgeon I only need to take pyjamas, toiletries and my ID card but Dobrina said to take a plate, cup and cutlery as some hospitals like you to use your own, and apart from this the hospital site says about taking your own sheets and pillow cases, so I shall arrive armed with everything.

I'm a bit nervous of course but only because I'm worried that I might not understand something, or that I might forget to take something essential (like food perhaps?) but regarding the operation itself I have faith in the surgeon not to remove a limb by mistake. Who knows, maybe he'll tighten up a few wrinkles here and there whilst I'm asleep!

Finlay had his second trip to the vet last week too after the recurrant limping only this time it turned out he actually had a sizeable wound right on his ankle. The area around it was devoid of fur so I can only imagine it had been festering inside for a couple of weeks, causing him pain, and has then burst whereupon he's been licking it clean. So, thankfully no operations or x-rays needed, just an antibiotic jab and some tablets which he's just finished taking, and so far no return of a limp.

The garden is getting a much needed soaking today (and last night) with some fairly heavy rainfall which will do all the little seedlings a power of good. I've been a bit annoyed to see some deep weeds pushing up through the floor of my raised beds - apparently the sheets I put at the bottom rotted pretty swiftly - so in autumn when the veggies are done I shall empty the manure out and put plastic sheeting over the ground instead. Who would have thought that a plant could fight up through a foot and a half of darkness!

I spent some time this week first thinning out the peppers and tomatoes and then transplanting some to yoghurt pots from which the final strong ones will be selected for the garden.

It always feels such a waste to me when I have a little heap of perfectly good seedlings cast to one side just because I have too many.

The big plastic bottles made for great incubators but it was very hard to tip the plants out because of the ridged walls, especially the big things like courgettes which were ready for the garden. Next year I think I will line the pots with small plastic bags which I can then lift out when it comes time to transplant seedlings.

I've been throwing flower seeds in all over the place and was lucky enough to be given some clumps of lilies which I've put along the bottom of the garden where they can spread.

The comfrey plants are all growing like crazy ready to make more compost tea so I decided to improve upon the bucket I used last year for the leaves to rot in. I bought a big dustbin with a lid for 8 levs (about £3) and fixed an old tap into it.

The problem was though that all the sludgy bits of plant material quickly clogged up the tap and I had to keep poking the hole on the inside to let the 'tea' flow freely. Not something you want to be sticking your hand in each time because it really, really stinks! So I then came up with the idea of an old pillow case with some wire mesh inside to act as a filter. The new leaves and water go into the pillow case and then just the liquid filters through which runs freely out of the tap. Job done!

Last Thursday in the village they celebrated the feast of the Annunciation. The usual date for this is March 25th, but it can also be celebrated on April 7th as an alternative. It recalls when Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and told she would give birth to Christ (arrgghh this means it's only 9 months till Christmas!!). Traditionally on this day the housewife gives the yard and house a good sweeping and burns all the bits whilst a big old pot is banged to frighten away any snakes which might be lurking. (No doubt there's symbolism of good and evil in here somewhere). People leap over the fires three times for luck and it is said that any wound will heal more quickly on this day (should have sorted my operation a bit sooner!)

In the square they made a small fire from some sticks and baba Reina went round banging on a big tin can after which everyone present took turns at jumping over the fire.

We then did a little folk dance around it whilst the babas sang (would you believe the steps to the dance were yet again different from the ones we've been learning at our dance classes. Will there ever come a day when I can join a 'хоро' confident that I'll know the moves?).  After this some girls volunteered to have their ears pierced with a needle and red thread because on this day it won't hurt as much and the holes will heal more quickly.

Don't worry - it was all done as pretend.

It always amazes me how faithfully they maintain these ancient traditions and I think it's wonderful that they do so. I can't help but note the age of the participants though, most of whom must be in their 70s, and wonder if these events will fade away in the next 10 to 20 years. Maybe I should don a long black dress and embroidered pinny, and help preserve things for future generations too.

Another mini project came to fruition this week and my garden now sports a wigwam! I collected several long sticks last year from where the electricity board had done a major pruning job on all the trees in danger of damaging the overhead wires, and since then they've just been propped up in the garden, but now that my two lovely little grapevines are starting to sprout leaves I decided the time had come to build the frame I hope they will eventually grow over.

The sticks were tied together (using the plastic bottle string of course) and then rolls of brush screening were draped around them to provide a little shelter. (The brush screening has been stashed in the shed since moving here. It was one of the many last minute impulse buys I made before moving over, thinking at the time it might make a nice screen for the wire fence at the bottom of the garden though never had the heart, or nerve, to use it to effectively block out my neighbour).

As well as a frame for the vines to grow over it's also a very cool sitting place to catch the last of the evening rays of sun. I defy anyone out there to say they wouldn't still love to play at cowboys and Indians. Naturally all the animals were the first to investigate it and give it the paws up seal of approval. Molly, being more experienced in den making, noticed that the entire structure would not be waterproof and so built her own little shelter inside, out of the bags the screening came in.

Clever little cat.


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