Skalitsa Maestros

In Skalitsa getting something done simply, without any fuss is impossible, in fact I would say that would apply to the whole of Bulgaria.......

Another weekend on the farm to catch up on farm chores which was compounded with the rain we had this week meant that is was going to be a busy time, no time for guests or relaxing the weeds have bolted and the growth on the vegetables meant that extra supports had to be administered to the tomatoes, peppers and redirect the pumpkins who had now decided to sprint into other vegetable areas and were in the process of strangling them!

Because of the heavy rain and wind some plaster had come away from part of the main farmhouse building's outside wall and needed re-plastering. Now these are things I avoid firstly because I know nothing of plastering, I don't even know what is involved in mixing up some plaster, I do know that the compounds are cement, sand and water but quantities are a mystery. After today I was to become that much wiser not just in knowing a bit more about it but to keep my mouth shut!

Galia my Bulgarian girlfriend knew more than I did about plastering as she went about surveying the damage, it wasn't much perhaps half metre square needed seeing to. Being in Skalitsa and a Saturday meant that material might be hard to come by so it was friend and neighbours in Skalitsa that needed to be called upon. Galia said they were bound to have some materials at hand as it is always the case that nothing is wasted here and left over cement and sand would have been stored in outhouses for future use by every household - guaranteed!

I knew this was never going to be a case of getting the materials, getting advice of how to mix to make the plaster and I knew for certain I wouldn't be allowed to do the work myself! Oh how I knew this.... It was going to be a job that would take a day, as the saying goes, 'In Bulgaria you are lucky to get one job day in a day!'

Off to my neighbour Sacho to ask where materials and know how can be sought. It was now his mission to get the job done as some clattering could be heard as he entered his old garage which used to hold a Lada but now sold to the Roma for metal! Clatter, clatter, bang clatter then silence! A little creak of the big wooden garage door as he appeared with bucket full of sand. As I looked at it, it looked very much like shingle, I thought about this being put on my wall and how it would never match the existing texture. Then I though about Bulgarian mentality and how fashion and style doesn't really come into play when DIY repairs are done it is purely practicalities and whatever repair material happens to be around at the time. Worrying times.

So sand was here, where could the cement come from? Off we go to the local shop where lots of questioning was made, in particular one Roma chap was questioned and responded as they always do when small business with a possible money making scenario could result. He was in fact apparently rewarded with a beer as he found a source of cement from a house not too far from here. Off we go not before getting a couple of plastic bags from behind the counter from Maria the shop owner.

Nearly two hours had gone by and the morning was drawing to an end as we reach a Roma house calling for attention, strange but Roma house don't normally have dogs as alarm bells and the security of the home is non existent along with the produce on the land, nothing a home with a flimsy bit of material as curtains for doors and windows, no glass or wood in site. I found it very strange that we were to come here for cement as quite obviously the house hadn't seen repairs for many a year, in fact probably since the Roma had been here. Why would cement be here? A Roma man came out looking like he'd been asleep for a thousand years, his thick black hair stood up from being slept on and he stunk of alcohol as he mumbled his way towards us. A few comments were exchanged and we were on our way to another house, so my wondering why cement would be here was at an end it wasn't but another false rumour that the previous Roma got a beer in Maria's shop for nothing!

100 metres later a Bulgarian home was called upon but the little white fluffy but well voiced dog was calling the owner well before we reached the yard gate. his place was immaculate as we spoke for another 10-15 minutes. It was quite apparent that cement was here but that wasn't enough for the owner. He was apparently a maestro in plastering terms and after hearing of the dilemma the Englishman had now joined the party on a mission to sort the problem. So now a very heavy bag of cement in hand which I wasn't allowed to carry as I was English was taken from his very well organised workshop.

On the way back we met another maestro who confessed that he knew better than them regarding plastering and he joined now an every growing convey of maestros on the way back to my place, but no that wasn't the case it was back to the shop and a sit down.

The Roma who was free loaded a beer had gone as we spent 30 minutes talking about the job in hand and concluded that now wasn't a good time, it was lunchtime, it was hot and we would tackle the job this evening.

I insisted that I pay for the materials and do the job myself as they had now also told me that you need 1:3 ratio for sand and cement. Insisting fell on deaf ears as the contrived as plan of action as my home this evening.

So it was midday, all the materials had been gathered, the know how had been passed on and the wait was now on for cooler conditions... Half a day gone but progress had been made.

Jessica the doorbell dog sounded off at just gone 6:00 as Sacho turn up with the same bucket that was filled with gravel before but now I find that it is full of sand! He explained that he graded it by using a sieve that looked like a stretcher they bring onto football field to carry off injured footballers, (an non injured Italian footballers).

Moments later Jessica sounded off again two maestros had turned up and a friend, not quite sure whether he was a maestro but the chances are he was. so there were now five men, myself included ready for the job of covering half a square metre patch. I knew what was to happen next!

Sacho started the business as the rest of us watched, he used my wheelbarrow to make the mix done slowly and methodically. He adding a bit of washing up liquid with the mix that one of the maestros told him to do, this apparently was so that the cement was easier to mix, good or bad tip I don't know but it was added after much debate of course.

Galia was working full time providing refreshments, it was hard work watching after all but that's how it is done here. the next stage was to rid the wall of loose bit and spray on some water for the the cement to stick. This was also done solely by Sacho with advice and pointing coming in from all angles.

A little pause took place as more talking went on before the maestro who provided the cement now took over the waiting cement. He had his maestro tool with him and started slapping the cement in the areas it was needed but not before checking again the consistency of the mix adding a little more water to the mix.

Four still watching on as the maestro told them to stop the continuing advice that was coming from lesser maestros. Ten minutes later the job was complete and a nice smooth finish. This however was in contrast to the speckled finish of the rest of the wall. This did not bother the Bulgarian present who all stood back admiring the work that had been done.

How on earth could I complain, the whole things hadn't cost me a stotinki, I hadn't
lifted a finger to help in fact it felt more like I was in the way!

The trouble now was that they had spotted other areas of my wall that needed repair and my garden patio that was in dire need of being re-cemented. I don't have a say in the
matter as they planned to do this next week and were already organizing more cement and sand supplies to be brought in from Yambol.

Another Bulgarian trait was leaving a mess! We appreciate the help but it took longer to clear up the mess they made that it took to repair the wall, but like I say how on earth can you complain.

Could I have done this myself in the first place? Well no, but I could now with the experience of so many maestros and advice all the way along. In Skalitisa everyone there is a maestro in everything but some are better equipped than other in certain areas. For me if I was a normal British ex-pat I would be up in arms with the difference in finishes compared to the rest of the wall but I'm not.