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

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Monday 2nd October, 2017
Category: 2017/10
Tags: snake Gostilitsa Day cricket

It's a hugely busy time for the village at the moment with lots of celebrations and new initiatives taking place. Nadya, the mayor, was awarded a decent sized budget earlier in the year for various projects around the village including the creation of an outdoor museum and (importantly for me!) repairs to the little park opposite my house. So far the workmen have put on new metal gates at the two entrances to the park and have been replacing missing sections of the metal railing fencing around the perimeter. I'm pretty sure I saw some measuring going on by the old well there, so fingers crossed it too will be repaired.

There was a big flurry of tidying up by volunteers a few weeks ago in readiness for the village celebrations. Normally it's Gostilitsa Day on the 21st September each year, but this year was going to be extra big - 'Земляческа Среща' - which sort of means back to your roots. The idea is for anyone with connections to the village, even though they may be living far away now, should return on this day to celebrate their origins. So it was decided to hold the event on the 22nd September which is a national holiday (therefore no one would be working) and also a Friday which suits people better.

The area in front of the community centre became a huge stage for the opening speeches, folk singers and dancers and later on even a local pop star - Zdravko - and a laser show!

As you can see from his umbrella, the weather was dismal and pretty much rained the entire day which was a huge shame, but luckily there was a tented area in the square by the food stalls so there was some shelter for visitors. Even the rain couldn't put a damper on spirits though as everyone joined in the huge 'horo' dances in the square.

The next big event will be over the weekend of 13th-15th October when it's GostFest. On the 13th will be a demonstration cricket match between locals and the team from the National Sports Academy in Sofia. So far we've had two practice sessions with one more to go before the big day.

I've enjoyed having a little go too, and after practising 'bowling' fallen peaches into the compost bin I can now overarm bowl in the vague direction of the wickets. Not only that I managed to clip the ball on several occasions when it was my turn to bat. A far cry from those awful days of school PE lessons! Luckily there seem to be enough much stronger guys around to make up a team, so on the day I can just cheer from the sidelines.

The sun's shining at the moment but it is most definitely autumnal with the plants starting to die off and the chilly feel to the air in the morning. A bit different to even a week ago when I was still having to water the garden every other day due to the heat. It was during one such watering session when a little movement amongst the plants revealed this chap:

It was only when I studied him more closely that I realised he'd actually tried to squeeze through the tiny gaps in the netting and got himself well and truely stuck.

Luckily for me his head was caught up, so I could gingerly work my way along from the tail end, snipping his little body free. It was quite tricky at times trying to create enough space to get the scissors between his body and the netting as I was so worried about snipping him by mistake, but eventually we got there. He wasn't keen as I got closer to his head and started hissing quite a lot, so there was the nervy moment when I had my fingers quite near his mouth for that final snip to freedom. As soon as he felt himself being released he shot off under the compost heap again, hopefully having learned his lesson about the netting.

And finally, the renovations to the heating are all finished, and the stove was fitted along with the new pipes last week. After a quick lick of paint to the floor to spruce it all up it was time to fire up the stove and bask in the cosy glow:

Bring it on, winter!

Thursday 14th September, 2017
Category: 2017/09
Tags: renvotions heating chimney

It's that exciting time of year again when a fairly substantial renovation project takes place and there's lots of noise and muck and chaos and wishing I'd never embarked on the work before the final basking in pleasure at the new improvements. I'm currently in the middle of the process, though the end is pleasantly in view.

This year I decided to make some major changes to the heating arrangements, in particular to the fire in the living room. When the house was first renovated back in 2005/6 they put in an open fire place in the corner of the room as at the time I was only ever planning to come here for sunny holidays. My how things have changed!

This is it just before the final plastering over the chimney breast.

It was a lovely feature (though admitedly I never particularly liked the giraffe stonework around it) but never a practical source of heating. The smoke used to puff back into the room now and then, and of course 90% of the heat just wooshed up the chimney. Added to that the enormous draft that would come down into the room in winter when the fire wasn't lit (which is why it's been boarded over with a big sheet of plastic for the past 5 years) and it became nothing more than an ornament.

Since having the wood burner installed I haven't needed the open fire anyway, except on those rare occasions when the electricity is off for more than a few hours. You see my wood burner runs the central heating, and when the electricity goes off the battery back up only keeps the water pump running for a couple of hours. After that I need to let the fire die down or else run the risk of the water in the back boiler overheating and exploding. So I needed some kind of non-electrical back up.

My first idea was to have a glass door made for the open fire, but then I thought well the heat's still just going up the chimney. The second idea was to buy a small stove and sit it in the space where the opening is, but it was quite hard sourcing a fire of the right dimensions, and most of them only had small windows so I wouldn't see the flames very much. The third plan was...

Ha! It's completely gone. Yes, I decided to get rid of the old fire completely and have bought a nice stove to go in that corner - one with a really big glass door and which I can also cook on top of (again thinking if the power's off for any big amount of time).

It took the guys a lot of hard work getting the big old flue pipe out as it was a custom made huge steel thing that weighed a ton. It's now sitting in the garden awaiting the time when I can find someone to give me a few bob for it.

After three days the walls were all neatly plastered and the floor smoothed over, and I've now painted all that area. So now they can come back and actually put the stove in position and fit the new flue pipes. I can't wait! It'll also be really handy say in early October when I might want to take the chill off for an hour or two in the evening but without having the whole house heated by central heating.

In the other corner I wanted the wood burner moved so it's at an angle to the walls so that the heat would be more directed into the room and not towards the front door. This meant draining all the water/anti-freeze down whilst he re-cut the pipes and then filled it again. I also have a lovely new UPS (which provided the battery back up) as last time the power went off there was a horrible burning smell emanating from the old one which was swiftly unplugged!

Once the new stove is in place I can scrub the floors and then give them a new lick of paint and sealant, and then it was all be deliciously bright and cosy for winter evenings laying by the fire, watching TV, crocheting... perfection!

Friday 1st September, 2017
Category: 2017/09
Tags: camping Irakli Beach

It was holiday time this week as I headed off to the coast for three days camping with some friends.

The plan was to drive across to a place called Irakli Beach which is just south of the town of Obzor (between Varna and Burgas). Apparently it is one of the few places left where people can freely camp right on the beach, which sounded idyllic to me.

One of the things about camping is the extraordinary amount of stuff you need to take, but luckily the person driving us had a big car. Even so it was absolutely packed out as we headed off early Monday morning.

We stopped off in Obzor to do some food shopping and have a spot of lunch and then it was back in the car to head to our beach. You get there via a rough track from the main road, which splits in several places, one part of which takes you down to a big carpark next to an official campsite. We turned off a bit before this though so that we could park up in the forest bordering the beach, as close as possible to where we could camp.

There was an amazing number of people already camped out; some on the beach but many more in the forest itself, and by the looks of them some had been there all summer as they had converted little clearings into their home spaces with shelves across tree branches and even a big solar panel propped to one side.

From the forest there are lots of small tracks leading down onto the beach, so, laden up with our stuff, we made our way across the sand to set up camp (it actually took two trips to get all our things there!)

Here we are all set up - that's me in the camouflage tent in the middle!

The beach is beautiful; a huge long curve of soft sand fringed by forest, with a couple of restaurants up near the proper campsite area where there are also areas set out with umbrellas and sunbeds. Unfortunately, as with so much of Bulgaria, there is little sense of taking your rubbish home with you, and as you walk into the forest trails they are literally littered with the usual plastic bottles and phenomenal quantities of loo roll. It was quite shocking actually. You pass the first couple of trees and then see that you're about to walk through what looks like an open toilet, and you just stand still in disbelief and think 'oh my God'. It is such a huge pity as this is the one blot on what is otherwise an absolutely fantastic location.

As soon as we'd got our tents pitched it was time for a cup of tea, then on with the cossy and into the sea.

It was brilliant! It's been about 6 years at least since I swam in the proper sea (the Thames Estuary doesn't count!) and I couldn't take the grin off my face as I jumped about dodging the quite big rollers that were coming in. The water was so lovely and warm, and after a few stones near shore it was all sandy.

As the afternoon wore on we went and collected some firewood which turned out to be really difficult as every single camper already seemed to have scavenged every available twig, but we found some bits and pieces as well as pinching a couple of bigger logs from another firepit (there was no sign of campers or vehicles so we concluded they'd gone home already).

We had a couple of little barbecue trays to cook our food on, but once we'd lit the fire it was easier just to stick the frying pan on it and cook the remaining food there. After dinner it was pudding time - smores made by sandwiching toasted marshmallows between chocolate digestive biscuits.

I must admit I hardly slept that night, either due to the sounds of voices from nearby campers or the noise of the wind flapping the sides of the tent, and was glad as it turned light and I could see the new day.

Uh oh! The sky was decidely grey, and whilst we cooked a breakfast of sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, the rain began to fall ever more steadily. We retreated into our tents where I spotted the first drips coming in at the seams. Luckily I'd bought a section of plastic sheeting with me so dashed out in the rain and draped it over my tent. This protected it a lot though some water still came in lower down where the plastic didn't reach (this was mopped up and squeezed out using yesterday's knickers!)

We made our way across to the restaurant to get a hot drink and decide on what to do. One of the other tents was leaking really badly and would have been impossible to stay in if the rain continued to fall, so it was decided that we had no choice but to pack up and head home.

We got completely and utterly drenched as we towed everything back to the car, two of us even falling over in the mud on the way! Then it was a crazy ride along the now muddy track as the car slipped and slid from side to side until we reached the tarmac. As soon as we found a garage we pulled in so we could change out of our saturated clothes into something dry, and then it was back to Gostilitsa.

I spent much of Wednesday shaking sand out of things and washing stuff, as well as investigating my leaky tent. It turns out that the groundsheet has been attached to the main body of the tent the wrong way, so any water running down the side of the tent gets caught in a little gully and then runs straight inside, but a bit of Googling had me making a mix of silicone and paint thinner which I've painted along any seams on the tent, and this seams to be sealing it properly.

So, I'll be much more ready for our next visit to Irakli. I can't wait!

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