Archive for December 19, 2010

Snow Good

Winter has come early here just as with the rest of Europe. This makes it the time of year
to stay in side and keep warm.

Winter in the Garden

At least that is if you don’t have drive and pick the better half who was lucky enough to leave the UK before they decided to close all the airports. My normal
drive of 35 minutes to pick her up from the bus station in Kardjali, was preceeded by a two hour dig to get the car to the road.

Winter in the Garden

As well as a 35 km drive that took an hour each way. Not being an expert driver in these winter conditions, and the feeling of not being able to steer making me feel
out of control I thought I would take it steady. Not for your average Bulgarian. The drivers here like nothing more than a challenge, boosted by the confidence that
winter tyres are compulsory they hurtle along overtaking on blind corners. They seem very interested in the contents of my boot if they are not overtaking. British drivers
have nothing on these guys when it comes to tail gating! It is obviously a sign of weakness to more than 6 inches from the car in front.

So the better half is here there is nothing to do in the garden and it is too cold to much else. Enjoy the pictures of the winter setting in!

Spontaneous Combustion

I have spent 4 years studying electro-magnetic waves, I could design you a small power generator (in principle), but can I get my kitchen light to work!
How hard can it be?

Anyone who thinks studying theories is enough to make them an expert should be prepared for a shock when it comes to putting those theories in to
practice. The house we bought although only 35 years old has the electrics and cabling, that would have any electrician worth his salt sucking in air
over his teeth whilst shaking his head, and planning his next holiday whilst he plucks a number out of the air to quote you for the work.

We had electric connected to the house partially since we first arrived, in partially I mean that some of the lights have worked, some of the sockets
have worked but never everything all at the same time. Anyone who has done electrics, knows that this is done before the plastering of walls so all
the nasty cables are hidden. What then do you do if you need re-wiring done? Without going as far as chiseling canals through all the walls to be
plastered over, the only other option is to have the cables on the outside of the walls, either in trunking or as in Bulgaria nailed to the wall.

Last month one of my sockets blew up, lots of smoke, nasty smell of electrical fire but I could not locate the problem.

What could make a socket that has worked perfectly well for ages suddenly decide to spontaneously combust (X – files not required).
After removing the said socket from the wall (Note to HSE I had rubber wellies on and had turned the power off) there holding the cable behind the
socket to the wall one large six inch nail, which after 35 years of work had finally cut through the plastic covering of the cable and had quite happily
joined in matrimony both positive and negative cables. Thus turning it into a small one bar fire and hence the spontaneously combusting socket.

Bulgarian Top Tip on electrics: Do not nail cables to wall!

Exploding Socket

Concrete Floor

This is the time year when there is not much to be done int he garden. I have
finished the digging and spreading of manure, so I thought it was time to tackle one of the rooms in my house that needed some renovation.

The floorboards in the room that we use as a kitchen had started to suffer from dry rot, in fact a few had disintergrated completely, so only half of the room
was in use, the other half I found out when clearing it was being used as a litter tray by my cats, bless them.

Concreting a floor how hard can it be? To be honest there is more to it than I imagined, but essentially it is not that difficult. I had recruited a few helpers
who knew what they were doing, with the promise of a night on the beer.

Ilyas, Aziz, and Mustapha all thought this was worthwhile enough and so we got down
to business. The use of concrete mixers unfortunately has not yet spread to rural Bulgaria, and even if they had they would be shunned in favour of the shovel.

The room in question measures 4m x 4m and the concrete we would be laying would be about 7cm and reinforced with a steel grill. I was soon removed from my post as head engineer,
and demoted to shovel hand number 3 when they realised I had no idea what I was doing. Probably for the best. So mixing just over 1 cubic metre of concrete, and leaving
the Bulgarian maestros to the technical work I have fully replaced the floor with a new concrete one. Mixing 1 cubic metre of concrete with a shovel gives the back a good work out to say the least.

My new Floor

After finishing off we headed up to Hikmets pub, my helpers seemed very thirsty indeed. I know I was as well. Hikmet seemed delighted when I went to
settle the bill, he usually smiles when he needs to use his calculator to add up your bar bill. So much for last weeks resolution to stay off the drink!

A New Pub

My village of Samodiva has about 300 residents, and yet can support 3 different watering
holes. I am all for it. Just recently a new place has opened, I say new it resembles someones old shed, has seating for about 10 people, and is nowhere near anyones house.

That said, when Ilyas turned up at 5 o’clock on Tuesday and asked if I wanted to go and test out the new establishment I couldn’t resist. He tempted me with
a promotion of free salad if you were drinking rakia (mastika or grosdovo). For those that don’t know the drinking habits of Bulgarians, they would probably shock most.

Mastika (Ouzo) and Grosdovo (Brandy) are the favourite tipples, in fact unless you are in one of cities or tourist resorts you will find nothing else except
bottled beer and the two spirits.

The ‘norm’ is to order a shot of spirits (100ml – thats a quadruple in UK) along with a soft drink in a separate glass, this is usually accompanied by a side
salad, or sliced salami sausage. For those of you that shudder at the idea of ordering 100ml at a time a half measure is available, but ordering it is the equivalent of asking
for a pina colada in a working mans pub in the UK. They would think you were friendly with Elton John!

So Ilyas and I ventured down to the new pub, determined to make the most of the free salad, I should point out that normally I only drink beer, which is acceptable as I am a mlad,
next birthday (36) I will no longer be considered a mlad and may have to upgrade my tipple. The pub (kruchma) is about 500ms away from our houses and downhill all the way. The
downside of expedition had already dawned upon me, the walk home would be uphill!

Ilyas is very well known throughtout all the neighbouring villages as
an all round good egg. He has told me personnaly that his friendship with me has been questioned by some from other villages that would probably vote BNP in the UK. He informed that
he told them to ‘sod off’ and that I was a ‘dobra chervek’ (good person) high praise indeed, and Ilyas is a very good friend.

The new pub then, or someones old shed that serves beer, it normally takes a couple to get into the swing of things and there is no animosity towards drunkeness here
no matter the time of day. So we went for it. After an hour in the pub I was on my fourth beer, Ilyas was halfway through his 2nd grosdovo, we had devoured our free
salad (potatoes) as well as sampling salami and some grilled meats. The barmen seemed very pleased with out barbill, and it was only half past 6. My bulgarian improves
exponentially with the amount of beer I have consumed, or at least I believe it has, everyone else just laughs (at) with me anyway.

By half past 8 we are regurgitating conversations, and putting the world to right. We have also consumed quite an amount of alchohol, so decide it is time to venture home
before we become incapable. Ilyas has obviously seen the flaw in the plan as well, 500m up hill in the dark when sober is ok, malko peeyan it might as well be 5km.

Then the cavlary arrives, Ilyas had phoned his son to come pick us up! Hurrah! Nuhran bundles us into the car and starts back. Unfortunately the beer has taken
effect by now, normal sensible thoughts no longer apply. ‘Where do we get dropped off?’ outside our houses, no, that would be optomistic at best, lets try our local pub
and report our findings in there!

Luckily for us Hikmet our regular barman has seen sense and shut up shop for night. So although disappointed at the time, the next morning I was
seriously thankful. That though doesn’t put me off. Remembering I had a stash of good Bulgarian red wine in the house invite Ilyas in. We manage to polish off a bottle,
before the homing beacons start to flash. Needless to say that since Tuesday night I have been off the beer, in fact Wednesday morining I could have sworn someone had
beaten me over the head with a shovel the night before.

Obviously I have learnt from this experience and I will never consume alchohol again, honest.

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