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

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2014/11
Saturday 29th November, 2014
Category: 2014/11
Tags: banks

Yesterday was a glorious reprieve from all the grey weather lately and I literally sat in the garden with my face upturned to the sun like a basking komodo dragon, lapping up the warmth. That swift dose of vitamin d has recharged the batteries nicely ready to face any challenges ahead.

Maybe it's something in the atmosphere but lately the number of 'system failures' seems to be on the increase. Actually some of them have been there for months (years in one instance) but occasionally I take stock of them and realise how many niggles I need to get sorted... one day...

Take leaks for example. The shower tap has leaked since forever and there's a permanent drip of water running down the inside of the cubicle. In the long term I plan on having the bathroom completely redone as a wet room so this niggle can wait. I discovered that the tap in the kitchen is also dripping from underneath the sink but again I will be getting the worktop and sink replaced early next year so for now the solution is a little bucket under the drips. The back boiler on the stove leaked for a while over the summer but now it seems okay (with the aid of my rag bandages around the pipes) so let sleeping dogs lie on that one. Then there's the outside tap. There seems to be a leak in one of the pipes hidden under the cement which means getting someone to cut a hole in the patio to investigate. For the moment I just keep the outside water turned off unless I need to fill a bucket so again it can wait...

Then there are the electrical niggles. The switch on the kitchen wall which controls the electricity supply to the water tank in the bathroom needs replacing. I got as far as buying a new switch but it's a bit bigger than the hole in the wall, so until Ii sort someone out to do it the solution has been to wedge the switch in a certain position using a plastic fork (hey at least i was smart enough to chose plastic and not metal!).

Finally there's the car. It's been permanently cold for ages now with temperatures hovering around zero, and the car always takes a bit longer to start in these conditions, but the other day it seemed to be turning over for ages before it fired up. Lots of 'Googling' suggested the battery, glow plugs or alternator as the culprit so a friend came over with a battery charger to see if that would make a difference. With the extra top up of charge the car did indeed start more quickly so maybe I will just need a new battery... eventually...

Uggh, why am I such a procrastinator when it comes to getting things sorted out? I suppose because it's such a faff finding people to do jobs, then them finding the time to actually do them and it all seems like too much effort. What I need is a Mr ( or Mrs, I'm not sexist) Universe to move in for the week and check out the entire property, wave a magic wand and make everything up to date and shiny new. Any volunteers?

Last week the phone rang one morning (unknown Bulgarian landline number) and after a trepedatious 'allo' from me I found myself talking to a woman from Alpha Bank. My first thoughts were blind panic that someone had emptied all my accounts, but thankfully she was just calling to remind me that my one year savings plan was due to end. So this week I've been seeking out the best deals for the coming year.

It seems that Fibank are the best right now with a one year plan averaging about 4.8% interest over the year, so next week I need to go back into Gabrovo and see about shifting all my pennies into a new account, setting up web banking with them etc. Foolishly I feel guilty about leaving Alpha Bank - I shall have to go in wearing my best business head. Perhaps I could dig out some 1980's shoulder pads to boost my resolve too!

Monday 24th November, 2014
Category: 2014/11
Tags: knitting neighbours at war

Today I opened my first Christmas card - by accident I hasten to add! The post woman called with a parcel and a letter, and since my niece mentioned sending a card from my great-nephew I presumed that this was it and tore into it eagerly. Sorry sis! I've now put the card and gift back into the envelope and promise I won't look at them again until well into December.

Actually the parcel was an even greater surprise, not merely for the fact of it arriving at all, but because I'm sure I only ordered it a few days ago. It's a big bag of wool and a French knitting bobbin from a wool warehouse in the UK:

My plan is to get the creative juices flowing through the winter months by making things out of French knitting, perhaps having a go at some macrami (I recall making a few belts in my teens) and just having a play around - maybe make some autumnal themed dream catchers. I couldn't wait to get started and made my first little bracelet whilst watching the latest episode of the soap this afternoon:

I must remember to get the post woman some choccies for Christmas as it's pretty good of her to traipse all the way down here to bring parcels.

Such prompt service seems a bit of a rarity at times though, as it occured to me the other day that I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for things to be finished off. People say they will come in the next day or so to do x, y and z, and the days pass and no one comes, and it always leaves me wondering what to do. Do I keep phoning up and pestering? Is it a subtle hint that they can't be bothered and I should find someone else? Most of the time I just end up doing the jobs myself (if I'm physically capable) but it still irks now and then.

One job that has now been completed is the guttering to the rear of the garage, though it was an event which wouldn't have looked out of place on one of many TV soaps. Now, I'm writing this in the fairly safe knowledge that neither party knows of this site, or if they did would be able to translate sufficiently, so... come closer dear reader and I'll tell you what happened...

It's been apparent to me for some time that there is some sort of lond standing animosity between two of my neighbours. Although I don't understand what's being said I can clearly understand the disparaging facial expressions when one party (let's call her Ivy) mentions the other side's names; they, much more straightforwardly, say she's nuts. Anyway, on Saturday, members of one family came to do the guttering. Perhaps at this point I should say that the only reason I'm having the guttering done is that Ivy has complained about the rain from my garage roof ruining the wall which divides our properties, so fair enough, I went and got all the pieces needed and arranged for the work to be done.

They spent Saturday welding all the pieces together, fitting the down pipe, cutting the angled corner pieces, and hooking it all up with the brackets. Sunday they came back to add extra silicon sealant to the joins and to build a concrete box around the final horizontal pipe which runs from my garage wall, along the edge of the garage ramp and finishes about a meter from the centre of the lane. In my mind's eye I thought the rain water would exit the pipe and then flow away down the lane like the rest of the rain does.

I was sitting indoors while they got on with the work when suddenly I thought I could hear shouting. I looked out the window and saw Ivy standing in the garden and presumed she'd just come round to see what was going on (as she often does when I'm having work done). I went outside and was immediately summoned to the garage.

She wasn't at all happy with how they were doing the guttering and so they asked me to confirm with her that I indeed wanted it how they were doing it. I told her yes, so the water will run off into the street, at which point all hell broke loose. She literally screamed at them for over 10 minutes about how all the water will run back into her yard, about how the lorry won't be able to drop off her winter wood (mainly because of the old tractor a third party has abandoned outside her house), even about how all the rain from my other sheds is ruining her garden. I seriously thought she was going to give herself a heart attack! After this she stomped off back indoors leaving me feeling totally stunned.

We had a quick confab and decided to do the garage guttering exactly how she wants it, even though it means the water will still end up flowing out in exactly the same place as before - if it keeps the peace then so much the better. As for the rain from my other sheds, well I don't know what could be done about that other than inventing mains drainage. Her property is downhill from mine and completely borders the bottom of my gaden so naturally all the water will flow that way. I'm just praying that next year is much drier than this has been so I can stop causing her so many problems!

To end on a cheerier note, here's a picture of the hawfinch who can often be seen turning over leaves in the street out front:

Happy days!

Sunday 16th November, 2014
Category: 2014/11
Tags: gourd festival

What a fabulous lay in this morning! After going to bed at about 12.30am I woke up properly at gone 10am feeling much refreshed. A cup of tea was followed by doing the rounds of feeding Alfie and Molly, clearing up dog poop much to Alfie's fascination, and laying the fire ready for later. At that point, fired up with energy and enthusiasm, I decided to start putting up some protection over the smaller leeks ready for the low temperatures expected next week.  I've rigged up some plastic sheeting which might protect them a bit (unless we get some very strong winds meanwhile) and the bigger leeks will be used up over the next few weeks anyway so I think they'll be okay as they are.  They all got a bit flattened after the heavy snows the other week but the stalks themselves still look okay, just the leaves have all bent over and drooped.

Despite the dull weather, the plants I brought indoors (rosemary, cuttings of lavender and sage, geraniums and a begonia) seem to be clinging on to life. The lack of light seems to be the biggest factor for their survival, so if we get some warmish sunny days I might need to put them back out for a little sunbathing now and then.

Yesterday at the community centre we celebrated the first of an annual gourd festival.  To be honest I just expected a few songs and a couple of readings but on entering the building I was amazed to see how much work and effort had gone into the preparations.

The foyer was decorated out in several gourd displays.  There were some brilliant caracatures of political figures, gourds decorated by the school children recently and some beautiful gold coloured gourds done by a local artist:

Around the walls there were slogans related to gourds though the only one I could properly understand proclaimed that amongst all pumpkins the gourd was king. A projector screen was set up and at the front a big banner said 'Празник На Кратуната' Gourd Festival!

As we walked in we were all welcomed and given a gourd sticker to wear on our lapels.  Every seat was quickly filled so more were brought out for people, and then the entertainment began.

Raicho rang a bell (made from a gourd of course) and introduced the proceedings. First up were our own Gostilitsa Babas with a selection of local songs, including one about a young Gostilitsa girl out collecting water in her gourd who then encounters a Gostilitsa lad who proposes marriage. She hands over her gourd to him as a sign of her acceptance of this proposal (as I write this I can't help but wonder at the womblike symbolism of the gourd!) and together they vow that in their marital home they will sow gourd seeds in the garden for love.

Several people did readings and poems about gourds, one of which spoke of its glorious past when it played such a key role in everyday life - carrying water, storing rakia, as ladles etc - and how that was all now just a memory. Ahh, poor gourd!

Mariana showed a slide show of lamps made from gourds which were quite amazing and intricately carved, and then did a little riddle quiz with prizes for those who guessed the right answers. I think one of them was 'What do you see less the bigger it gets?' The answer was darkness.

The children who used to go to school here then performed some folk dances, doing very well with the energetic moves despite the confined space they had to perform in.

Finally, since it's the first of our annual festivals, a gourd shaped cake was brought out with a little gourd embedded in it, and as the firework flared we all sang happy birthday.

As we made our way out we were presented with little bags of gourd seeds so that everyone could grow their own gourds next year. It certainly sounds as if in Gostilitsa at least the gourd's future is secured!

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