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
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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 30th December, 2014
Category: 2014/12
Tags: village party freezing temperatures kittens

Temperatures are plunging rapidly at the moment; some parts of the country will be minus 21°C tonight, and here it was minus 5 during the day, even with the blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Such coldness means any outdoor water freezes quite quickly, so I've been replenishing Alfie's water bowl a few times. I'm wondering if I can safely put a smaller bowl inside his kennel without risking him knocking it over, because maybe his body heat will prevent it freezing.  He enjoyed bounding around the garden today despite the cold and watched with interest as it took me an extra long time to find the tennis ball which he'd conveniently hidden in the snow on Saturday.


It's not just Alfie's water which freezes but even full buckets of water become quite solid. Not one to waste a chance to play, I tipped one such frozen bucket out and after the water in the centre had drained away it made an effective ice lantern:


The cold weather brought another little surprise on Friday by way of three abandoned kittens. Due to the forecast snow and cold temperatures I was out on Friday bringing huge amounts of firewood closer to the house and making sure the lettuces, cabbages and leeks were suitably covered. Whilst I was out I could vaguely hear a cat mewing but didn't think anything of it at first. You often hear them especially when one of the tom cats is on the prowl for a mate - they call incessantly and sound quite plaintive at times.


However, the crying continued and later it sounded like it was coming from the house next door where no one lives. Was there a cat trapped somewhere? I went out to the street to investigate and that's when I saw them - three tiny kittens huddled by the gate where they'd clearly been put by someone. I know they didn't get there under their own steam because one of them was very sick and couldn't walk at all. The two livelier ones followed me to the house where I got a cardboard box and put some towels and old t-shirts in there for them.


It was too cold outside for them, even with the box, so I decided to put the box in the bathroom where they could be contained (and kept away from Molly of course who wouldn't appreciate the intrusion).


The little sickly one was wrapped in a towel though I didn't hold out much hope for his survival. The next task was food, so I broke some bread into tiny pieces and soaked it with warm water - they wolfed it down! After one of them peed in the corner I went and got an old flower pot tray and put cat litter in it. Luckily they both automatically seemed to know what it was for and used it - frequently! Lucky I have a couple of full sacks of it already.


I positioned the little sick one by the radiator to try and warm him, but even with this he was completely unable to take any water - even with me dripping it directly into his mouth - and so not surprisingly he only survived until Saturday afternoon.


The other two seem to be thriving. I was hoping to take them to the vet for a quick once over and for worming treatment (the black one is like a little barrel and has diarrhoea so must be full of worms) but the icy weather means this will have to be delayed. I'm giving them a bit of diatomaceous earth a couple of times a day to help kill the worms and for food they're having to make do with Molly's biscuits plus a little kefir whey and kefir yoghurt.


Yesterday I let them out of the bathroom to explore which they loved, though they had a swift lesson in manners and pecking order from Molly who growled at them when they tried to boldly march up to her. She's getting a bit more relaxed with them around and will stay in the room, play and eat as normal, just as long as they don't invade her personal space. They are in awe of her and watch her with wide eyed fascination.



The little ginger one (I think he's male) is very confident and constantly climbs up my entire body to sit on my shoulder. He starts off purring like a little engine right in my ear but then can't resist suddenly biting my ear lobe! He's heard the word 'no' a  thousand times already! The little black one isn't quite so touchy feely yet and prefers to sit by my feet, though she did enjoy being brushed all over today.


My plan is to look after them through the bad weather and have the usual veterinary treatments (worming, vaccinations, neutering) when appropriate.  If I could find an adoptive home for them then that would be great, if not then they can have the free run of the garden and I'll make a mini kennel for them to sleep in because once they're old enough they will have to be strictly outdoor cats. (That's what I'm telling myself anyway!)


Sunday we had the village Christmas party and although the turn out was quite low because of the icy weather, it was a lovely afternoon.  Everyone brought food to share and drink, Nelly provided music and singing, we all got up to join in with the dancing.

At the end Baba Raina told some rather saucy jokes which were all the funnier because she had to repeat them very slowly for us to understand and all the Bulgarians were chipping in trying to explain the bits we couldn't understand - sometimes with explicit actions. For example, why is a man like a clock? Because he's 'cuckoo' (Baba pointed to her head) and has a pendulum (she mimed this amidst a gale of laughter).  Simple homemade fun but you just can't beat it.

Friday 26th December, 2014
Category: 2014/12
Tags: Christmas

Christmas away from family can be a strange thing with mixed feelings. It can leave you feeling a bit isolated if you dwell too much on your relatives being together so far away, and although things like Skype are brilliant for communicating you may find people cannot make the time to use them amid the hustle and bustle of the lead up to Christmas. On the plus side, this means that you don't just sit back and take Christmas for granted but you make active plans to be with others, you go out and participate in events and get togethers, and nearby friends and neighbours take on a much greater importance. 


On Monday this week there was a little Christmas concert given by the children who used to attend the school here. (Unfortunately the school closed at the end of summer and the children are now educated elsewhere but thankfully they maintain close contact with the community centre here and often come to take part in events.  It was a lovely concert with lots of Bulgarian Christmas songs and dancing.  This clip was a song about 12 Christmas cards (click here for the clip).

At the end of the concert the children gave out the traditional Christmas bread inside which was hidden a coin, giving luck to the finder.



I found out at the concert on Monday that on Sunday there would be a bit of a village party in the pensioners' club so that some of the elderly or disabled villagers who don't get out much will have a festive celebration. With that in mind I decided to make a little Christmas cake to take along. The cake itself was a basic fruit cake (though it needed a bit of trimming to get rid of the burnt bits), but the icing was another matter altogether. Click here for that story.


On Wednesday morning I went round to one neighbour as she's now off work for the Christmas holidays. Her little boy Stefan will be three in March so I gave him a pad of paper and some sets of crayons along with a set of wooden cubes with different animals on each face to put together like a jigsaw. It took his mum and me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to do the bear.  I'm beginning to doubt the 'suitable for children age 3 and up' label!


Christmas eve I finished wrapping presents (including Molly and Alfie's of course) and put them under the tree before cooking my own take on a traditional Bulgarian Christmas eve meal. 

The meal is supposed to consist of an odd number of vegetarian dishes so I did lentils with garlic and onion, spicy cabbage with mandarins and stuffed green peppers. Okay so the peppers were a bit of a cheat because I stuffed them with cheese which isn't supposed to be one of the vegetarian options, but it all went down a treat anyway!


Christmas morning! I got up about 8.15 looking forward to giving Molly her present and trying to entice her to open it, when this sight greeted me on the living room carpet:


She'd managed to sniff out her gift and had opened it all by herself and scoffed half of it!

Bearing in mind that there were also similar gifts for Alfie and my friends' cats under the tree I think she did a stunning job at homing in on which one was hers.

Alfie of course was outside waiting for his pressie which he swiftly carried off up the garden (away from Molly) and demolished.


I'd been invited round a friend's house for Christmas dinner but had a bit of time in the morning to pop round to Baba Ivanka's to wish her merry Christmas and give her a couple of little gifts. We had some rosehip tea and a couple of her Christmas biscuits together before I came back to change and head off to the big feast.


It was the perfect Christmas combination of insane amounts of food and drink (including a delicious snowball which I haven't had to drink for years), presents and then an evening of fun playing games on the Wii and Xbox (or was it a Nintendo). How brilliant to just relax and be silly together, not to mention discovering I have hidden bowling talents! I loved the Raving Rabbids games especially the one where you try to keep in time to the music. I went to bed with 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' reverberating around my head! Cheers for a very Merry Christmas.



Thursday 18th December, 2014
Category: 2014/12
Tags: rat Christmas celebrations

Exactly one week until Christmas Day and the festive feeling is well and truly kicking in. Today I got the decorations out of the shed and, as per tradition, put on a CD of Christmas hits and began trimming up. I always love having a tree and each year some new ornaments get added to the collection. Last year it was some beautifully painted salt dough decorations which were being sold on behalf of a charity in VT. This year I have a delicate little wire bauble which says 'sister' in the centre, sent to me by my sis.

Under the tree I have dozens of little Christmassy knick-knacks accumulated over time: mini crackers, flashing brooches, little figurine candles, Christmas teddies and so on. It's my miniature grotto! The mantlepiece by the open fire has a spruce garland along it and three stockings hanging there (for Alfie, Molly and me of course) and on one of the stone ledges next to the fire is my home made nativity scene.

The landing window has a huge paper star which was given to me by a friend today, and a little blue tinsel Christmas tree, and I've hooked a little string of fairy light shaped beads over the front gate. There are few things lovelier to me than sitting indoors on a cold winter evening with just the glow from the log fire and the lights on the tree, and feeling all warm and snoozy.

This week has been quite full of celebratory events which has made for a great lead up to Christmas week. 

On Monday evening there was a carol concert in VT lead by the British Ambassador and a priest from Sofia. There were all the favourite carols interspersed with readings and a few songs by the choir. At the end we were all given a mince pie to round the evening off. 

On Tuesday one of the families in Slaveykovo had an open house get together for everyone with mulled wine and a selection of goodies. The weather was perfectly sunny that day so I elected to walk there. It was en route that I spotted this big old bee nest in one of the trees:

Glad I didn't come across it when it was active! Later that day I went out for a walk with a friend and her dogs before heading home late afternoon.

And finally, today eleven of us met up at a restaurant in Gabrovo for a pre-Christmas lunch. What a great afternoon! Animated conversations, lovely food and of course a glass or two of wine. I definitely hope for more of these meals out in the coming year.

Someone who isn't celebrating this week is the not so little rat who has been living in my attic for the past couple of months (at least). He might possibly have been there longer but it was only after returning to sleeping indoors in October that I noticed the odd scuffing sound from up there and knew I had a visitor.

At first I ignored it as a one off, then when it became more frequent I took to walloping the ceiling with a broom handle hoping to scare off whatever it was. This didn't work so I downloaded a couple of supposed anti rodent sound creating apps on my tablet. These played various tones at different frequencies which apparently mice/rats can't stand and so they leave. I put the tablet on top of the wardrobe and left it playing but to no avail.

My next tactic was to dig out my old wooden mouse traps and lay them out in the loft, baited with little bits of chocolate. Still no result; every night I would be woken at about 3am by hefty pattering above me as the creature returned from a night's foraging ready to cosy up in my loft insulation for another day.  When I went to check the traps I found all the bait gone, and two traps had been sprung but no bodies.

By now I was worried about A) the lack of a full night's sleep, B) the possibility of the animal moving friends and family in too and C) the vague thought of it chewing through the ceiling and landing on me, so I needed to up my game drastically.

I braved the attic and began pulling back the rolls of insulation which revealed several piles of rat pooh; at least now I knew who my enemy was. I read on the internet that if you mix plaster of Paris with dry food the rat will eat it and it kills it so I duly mixed up a little beaker of plaster and a pudding mix and positioned it near the droppings. That night there was the usual scurrying but no sounds of chomping or 'mmm, tasty' type noises. Apparently my rat had finer tastes. Actually it was at this time too, when I went to check on the couple of dozen pears stored in the shed, that I discovered ratty had been gorging himself there: every single pear had been demolished! Now it was outright war.

So last Friday I went to Gabrovo and bought a cage trap from one of the DIY shops. I took it up to the attic, hung a little piece of apple on the hook (I assumed my rat was a fruit addict by now) and set the trap door.

For a couple of nights there was actually less scurrying - maybe my disturbing the attic was enough to scare him off (or perhaps the fact that the pear stash was exhausted) but then on Monday night at around midnight, just as I'd turned the light out, there came an almightly twanging sound and then the noise of the cage being thumped around. I'd caught him!

Peeking cautiously into the loft I could see the rat in the trap though his tail was still poking out under the door. He was twisting around and head butting all the sides which made me panic and think he might actually push his way out again. Quickly I got the trap by the handle and brought it downstairs.

Molly was asleep on the cushion and didn't realise what it was at first until she caught a wiff of it. Boy did she go ballistic! She wrapped her arms around the entire cage desperate to get at the rat inside:

Now I had a dilemma - how to dispose of the rat? If I let Molly at him she would no doubt want to play with him and might well lose him in the process. I didn't want to drown him as so many do and had no means of a quick dispatch. So a decision was made. At about 1am with me in my onesie and ratty inside the cage which in turn was inside a tupperware box for added security, we went for a little drive:

I'd read that they need to be taken over a mile from home or they'll just find their way back, so I drove to the other side of the next village and pulled over in a lay by. Ratty was very quiet all the way there (several times I began torturing myself with the imagined idea that he'd escaped the cage and the box and was about to silently launch himself at my jugular whilst I was driving) and as I put the cage on the grass he began sniffing the night air.

I lifted the trap door open and watched as he cautiously sniffed a few more times before taking a few steps out and then suddenly with leaps and bounds he was away into the field and gone:

So far my nights since have been blissfully scuffle free, but if he does manage to find his way home I shall name him Lassie and keep him!



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