A Bulgarian in England

It was back to Bulgaria as Galia and I boarded the plane, this time we prayed it would be forever. The experience we had there was horrendous, more so for Galia, who had so much high expectation of the country before she got there. Not entirely due to the country but the situation we were in.

We couldn’t afford to pay rent and work to save and Galia had to work cash in hand as legally she wasn’t allowed to work there. This meant we had to stay with family, entirely grateful for their help and support but they are impossible to live with, especially my Dad, who hates anyone who isn’t rich and speak Greek whether family or otherwise. Galia and I were in that category. He is old, has Parkinson’s disease and angina but that is no excuse for being racist especially to his own family.

The bottom line was we couldn’t wait to get to Bulgaria we would rather be there penniless than stressed, ill and exhausted with a bit of money in the bank in the UK. There wasn’t any argument about that at all it was a unanimous decision form us both and all who knew us except the immediate family who we were with who needed us to stop the house becoming a dirty mouse/rat infested pit.

Ninety-nine percent of the time we were confined to the house, my Dad had to have non-stop supervision and Galia was paid to watch over him 24/7. The idea was that my brother, when he wasn’t working would give us some rest bite.

It took me a month to find a job in the UK after being advised to go to the job centre, they wouldn’t pay me Job Seekers Allowance due to me being out of the country for two years (no National Insurance paid). It would have been far better to just approach employers direct and after four weeks being pissed about by them.

It was my original intention to go to the UK to work for a couple of months each winter and live of the earning for the remainder of the year. This was fine in principle but a month had elapsed and with no job no earning had been made, we were worse off than when we first got there! So the couple of months now turned into and extended 3-4 months.

All this time Andriko was preaching, stay a year of two, just work and stash your money away. His idea, has and always will be about making money, he doesn’t know when to stop, there is always another hurdle of greed for him to straddle when the put in front of him. The finishing line is never ever in sight.

Andriko came up with the idea of becoming a black cab driver, the idea of making thousands in the space of a month of so was his only vision. I followed along these lines and applied and bought a moped for the knowledge. The thought of two to three years learning the knowledge suddenly hit me after the extensive paperwork having been completed and the £150 cheque being written out and the medical being taken. I decided that the money bait that was always being thrown at me wasn’t’ worth the stress and abandoned the idea.

Then it was Andriko’s idea that I become a bus driver, I would get my PSV license and be able to come back each winter and walk into a driving job without fuss. I wasn’t too sure about this. I agree in principle that buses are good for the environment and I enjoy driving but the stress driving a London Bus is awful. It was also being thrown heavily into the media about the disrespect younger Brits have towards bus drivers and other bus travelling passengers.

I originally applied at Harlow and passed the initial test drive and written test and test drive and was due to start training but Andriko then suggested that a London Bus company was better as it paid more! I then went to Edgware bus Garage and went through the same procedure ready to start training. I had the moped to get to the garage but again re thought the situation.

It job that involved hardly any stress that was what I wanted and not too worried about how much they paid as our overheads were low and we could save for Bulgaria quite effectively. So the bus driving idea was ditched. I would have been happy driving country routes but it was too far to commute.

That same week the offer came in to work for Asda in Hatfield, without any help from the Job Centre. The interviews and screen came and went and I started on the night shift where I had to move stock from the warehouse to the shop floor for other staff to shelf fill. This was heavy and physical work and I liked it. There was no stress in involved but I got less than £1000 net each month for working 46 hours a week (night work don’t forget.) Of the 25 staff there I was the only Englishman apart from the manger.

I could also travel to work on a bicycle, which makes me even more happy although I have to ride through a rough area and have eyes at the back of my head to look out for muggers.

Three months on and I change jobs to Tesco warehouse, they offer me more money, less hours and even closer to home. I got the job because I worked there before and had a good history. For 32 hours I earn well in excess of £1000 in my pocket each month and still stress free work but still on nights. The work was mind numbingly boring but the thought of Bulgaria was always driving me forward. This is where I was until we returned to Bulgaria, we decided to come back in an instant and I didn’t even give them a day notice for leaving!

Galia on the other hand God bless her, was stuck at the house with my Dad who clearly didn’t have any respect for her due to her position of poverty and lack of Greek and English language. What did she go through during the last six months only she can tell. Added to which there were ghosts and spirits every night in the upstairs room where she tried to sleep. I was working night and she had company every night I worked. The door used to unlock and open. There was knocking on the walls and figures walking from one end of the bedroom to the other. Galia just used to hide under the covers shaking with fear. How I feel for her in these situations but wherever in the house she slept there were spirit and ghost wondering. Both my Dad and Andriko are witnesses to this during the night.

Funny but even I see cupboard opening in the kitchen and heard lots of knocking when I was in the house alone but never really thought much about it until after the event and all revealed their sightings!

In the living room where 16 hours a day Galia sat supervising my Dad, the radio was blaring out Greek music and the television blaring out bland English TV programmes mainlyg based around the cost of housing and antiques, all money based and materialistic of course, what did you expect. When it wasn’t those programmes it was the news, all bad news of murders, mugging and political crap. Galia often couldn’t believe the lack of respect for police and authority especially from youngsters.

We used to cater for the household as part of the thank you for putting us up but if it wasn’t’ pizza or a convenience food with all the chemical designed to make it tasty the food was defined as rubbish. Mind you so called the supermarket fresh food such as vegetables, salads and fruit tasted as bland as cardboard so the food even thought with the same ingredients as Bulgarian based recipes just didn’t touch the quality you would get in Bulgaria, it was all imported and artificially cultured. I grew to love tomatoes in Bulgaria but once again got to hate tomatoes as I used to once back in England.

Wasted food is what goes on here and this was difficult to live with, the food we prepared and served invariably didn’t get eaten as it was termed as rubbish so it got thrown away. No chickens, pigs, goats or dogs to feed them to, just straight in the bin along with all the other wasted packaging material that had no reuse in the home or garden. Trying to come to terms wit this was extremely hard especially for Galia who was brought up on recycling and minimum waste.

We couldn’t invite any of my friends to the house, as my Dad would just question how much money they earn and put me down in front of them so it was a barren place for socialising. On the rare occasion we did get out of the house and risk Andriko being there with Dad, we only ventured to the nearest town Hatfield or Potters Bar just to get some fresh air and let Galia stretch her legs walking around the second-hand and charity shops which she enjoyed immensely.

The six months there we never went out to a restaurant or fast food place purely down to cost, quality and taste is another matter. A pub was visited and was the venue for my best friend asking me to be his Best Man at his wedding in May. At the time I accepted and was quite taken aback with being asked. Even the commitment of this couldn’t hold us back for that extra month to see the wedding out – we had to go!

The final day couldn’t come quick enough as we took just 20 minutes to pack our belongings, we had been living out of one suitcase for six months anyway. The experience of England for me again and for Galia for the first time will forever stick in our minds and that enough is reason never to return again.