New Year's Resolutions for 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2009It seems to me that the New Years celebrations are the same all around the world. It is just a simply a countdown to midnight with lots of friends around and climaxing with fireworks. For many the 1st January a day of recovery from the night before. How many New Year resolutions will be made and how many broken before January comes to an end. Quite a few I fear, but at least people are trying.

To me, New Year is always a reflection as to how this can improve on the year before. It is like turning a new leaf and starting again which I suppose is where the 'New Year's Resolution' factor comes in.

I don't make any resolutions anymore; in fact I haven't since coming to Bulgaria. The philosophy behind that is, why put oneself under this kind of pressure? New Year’s resolutions certainly aren’t a Bulgarian thing to do, but that isn't the reason why I don't do it, it just doesn't feel right nowadays for me to compete against myself. 15 years ago was my last resolution; that was to give up smoking. I have succeeded until now, but of course the competition of this particular resolution is not complete until you die. So in view of that this is a continuing resolution that remains with me until such a point.

So whatever your resolution, I hope it goes well and you achieve whatever you have resolved to do.

New Year's Resolutions for 200In the meantime, it remains for me to wish everyone a
Happy New Year and a
Peaceful and Productive 2009

Slow Village Life - But Only With More Time There

Slow Village Life - But Only With More Time ThereBack in the village of Skalitsa, the pace of life just comes to a stand still for everyone there, nothing changes there on a day-to-day basis and you know what to expect every time. There is always time for everything, no rush, no panic and the talking just carries on like there is no tomorrow. So why are we always in a rush?

The reason is quite simple, lack of time there. We only have a few days in the farmhouse before the return to work. The tidying up the garden, including finally pruning and burying the roses, a bit of a spring clean in the house, then visits to our neighbours who we haven’t seen for over a month and the time is up! In no time at all our stay came to an abrupt end, no time to wind down and acclimatise to village life at all.

Slow Village Life - But Only With More Time ThereIf only we had more time there, we’d eventually slow down and not worry about time constraints. It is my plan to spend more time there in the spring with the beginning of the growing season, this has to be done of course as most of the food will be for the family meals in Yambol and the next winter. We don’t intend to miss out on many crops and harvests this year like last year. In village life there is always something to do unlike living in the town, even in winter, chopping wood, clearing paths, milking goats, sheep and cows and still burning fallen leaves even in December. There is just something I love about being busy, but doing things slowly on the farm, Galia is different, she can quite easily do nothing and be content with that, I can't.

We got to taste the village good once again at our neighbour’s house, fresh goat’s cream cheese, today’s laid chicken eggs and salami only made last week. Then there was the exchange and tasting of our home made Rakia. Sometimes we forget that the food and drink tastes even better it the villages than in the town. It seemed such as long time ago that we'd eaten at our neighbour’s house and is always a pleasure in winter anyway without the invasion of flies around.

Now we’re back in Yambol one day later, yesterday seems such a long time ago, but the taste of the village is still with us as we plan to go again New Year’s Day after excepting an invitation to a friend’s house in Yambol for New Year’s Eve. Can’t wait for both!

Christmas Eve Celebrations in Bulgaria

Christmas Eve is the biggest celebration in the Bulgarian calendar and so it was this evening in Yambol town. Having been through a few Christmases here in Bulgaria now, both in town and country, I look forward to Christmas rather than holding my head in my hands from the stress. There is absolutely no rush, no pressure and certain no pretence as families gather for the Christmas Eve celebration around the country.

Traditions still hold fast here, even though pressures from an invading western influence are now firmly in the veins of the country and will increase and spread as each year passes, for now, we have evaded the consumer Christmas that is the norm for millions of people worldwide now.

The traditions are many and would take quite a detailed account to cover all customs that we when though, so I have just put some basics that when on in Yambol this evening, so simple, community based and spiritually uplifting for all. There is never any point where the meaning of Christmas leaves our minds throughout the celebrations as the symbols of Christmas are in the presentation and food that is before us all evening (and a big chunk of the morning).

Before we left we had to make sure we took out slippers, again this is normal here taking your own footwear as guests in other Bulgarian homes. We gave the small gifts to each other before we left, as in practical Bulgarian tradition is actually more practical rather than dragging them to another apartment.

The food in the main is all home grown and prepared by hand with non-meat factor being the tradition this evening. Fast from eating meat prior to midnight is expected, however this has been watered down slightly as before the fasting of meat would have been over a period of 40 days, this just doesn’t happen here now and for most it is just for the day or for a few days.

Just as we left, it started snowing with all the food in carrier bags it his was bad timing and by the time we got there we looked like a crowd of snowmen entering the bock and left a big puddle of water in the lift as we left arrived on the fifth floor and the warmth of our hosts.

All home produced food consisted of:

Cabbage and bean stew

Traditional Boiled Wheat
Boiled Potato and Leek salad

Cauliflower and carrot pickle

Raw Leek sliced






2 Litres grape

Later on, still before midnight though:

Tikvanik (pumpkin banitsa) and Apple Sponge Cake

With all this home grown and made food/drink, it was only the bread and peanuts that were purchased!

Before any food or drink consumes the eldest member of the family, Baba in this instance, had to say grace with as all stood up to attention. There were many Icons of Christ as a permanent fixture on the wall in the apartment and these were focussed on during this short, but important beginning of this evening. Once the formalities were over the evening unfolded.

Normal in Bulgaria is the TV on in the background, used for music background rather than anything else. Talking, laughing, eating, drinking, dancing went on and on and on until 4:00. In fact the food was so good and plentiful that we didn’t even bother to get the meat dishes that are normally served after 12:00. We all had a joyous Christmas Eve where it is just simple pleasures that remain the most important factor, that’s what makes it so special.

It was Christmas Day treading the Yambol streets back home a few hours before sunrise all arm in arm going at Baba’s pace. Family bonds are wonderfully strong here and this was felt throughout the evening with the biggest Bulgarian celebration of the year.

The Worst Meal in Bulgaria to Date

We had some lovely people as guests staying at our farmhouse in Skalitsa while their new home was being renovated in a neighbouring village. We had made an exception for these people stay there after we had decided not to accept any guest unless we knew and trusted them to respect our home after some horrendous experiences of 'disrespectful' guests before. When we arrived at the farmhouse, we knew it would have been cleaned and left exactly as they had found it, this lived up to expectation as we entered out spotless home with a box of biscuits as a gift for us as a thank you. Now I have been spoilt stupid with food in Bulgaria since living here, there hasn't been any food I haven't liked, in fact there hasn't been any food I haven't loved. There has been so many tales about the food here and it continues today, but for a very different reason.

We hadn't got our daily groceries as we looked for something to eat for breakfast as we had arrived at the farmhouse at 8:00 in the morning and not eaten yet. Our guests had left a boxed pizza in our freezer; I guess they couldn't very well take it back to the UK with them so it stayed there. We decided to have this pizza for breakfast and went about following the instructions, which were in 10 different languages for cooking it. 10-12 minutes on a wire tray in the oven at a sizzling 230 degrees centigrade setting. The box and the plastic wrapping went into the wood burner as a fire starter as the pizza was cooking.

After the allocated time we took is out and let a cool a bit before tucking in. It was awful, dripping with fat and tasted of nothing in particular. The pizza base was like eating rubber. We couldn’t finish it and gave most of it to the street chickens.

Thinking on, I read only last week about someone comparing a pizza with sex, saying that they both are great every time even is it isn't that good it is still great. This is a mistruth from my experience today. I can honestly say this was the worse food I have had since living in Bulgaria, purely from the fact that it wasn't Bulgarian food. It was just some fast factory produced food from a supermarket that brought back the past for me. This is what I had to eat in the UK when living there, I guess millions of others just didn't know there are better eating options around in this world - Shame.

(Absolute no offence intended at all to our guests who left the pizza there.)

Merry Christmas


Fat and Football - Experts? Get Stuffed!

Fat and Football - Experts? Get Stuffed!It is a home with everyone in holiday mood with some family here. The women go their way into the kitchen watching Bulgarian TV and the men go their way into the evening room to watch live football. Everything had been prepared for the match; well actually it was one of the best combinations to make an evening a very special one. Why am I going to mention food again? You have to in this country as once again the simplest of foods made the evening memorable and I felt compelled to write about it.

Whist we were cheering teams on , groaning at referring decisions and debating the finer points of the offside rule we were tucking into probably the worse food on earth as far as nutritionists and food health experts consider, but 99% of food gurus who know what is best of you have probably never been to Bulgarian and tried any of the food there. Sometimes, in fact most times here, the food is eaten from the point of taste and not considered whether it would give you a couple of extra poor quality years tagged on to the end of your life. I'd rather die slightly younger and enjoy it rather than spending wasteful years stressing out looking for eternal youth and listening to 'experts' who say what you can and can't eat. (Most of this is commercially geared anyway!) Besides, what is the average life expectancy of food gurus anyway? I digress.

Fat and Football - Experts? Get Stuffed!This evening the food was prepared well in advance, 2 Kilos of juicy pig ears hade been boiling in a pot on a bottle gas stove outside all afternoon and then were dried off and barbecued just before the match started. Then there was the drink, consisting of home made grape rakia Yambol red wine and dark beer from our largest neighbouring town, Stara Zagora.

The evening started up as the pieces of barbecued pig's ears that had been cut up into morsels that fitting perfectly into bite sizes. Each piece was to be individually and generously salted, then ready for the mouths of the community of football fans to enjoyed as the whistle not just for the kicking off the match but kicking off with the food an drink. The Rakia, wine and beer freely flowed washing down the food that just complimented the football evening so well.

If you look at what we were actually eating it doesn't paint a good picture at all, pure fat and lots of salt accompanied by alcohol, but by golly, it was something very special this particular evening. Why not indulge in something that you enjoy? Most people here do.

Brilliant evening, brilliant food, brilliant drink the only thing that spoilt it was refereeing decisions. My God, how people are called 'experts' in their field, but really just don't have a clue, not just referees either.

Stressing Out Over Garden Roses

Stressing Out Over Garden RosesFor the last 5 weeks all I can think about is pruning the roses in the farmhouse garden. There are a few reasons for this; the first is going back two winters ago. I was living full time in the farmhouse then and in the winter the roses were pruned and buried well in time for the cold winter ahead. This is the Bulgarian way and it works very well. The following spring right though to December there was a single rose picked for Galia every single morning we were there.

Then there was last winter, I was working away from the farmhouse and didn't get to prepared the roses for winter, no pruning no covering them up with earth as they are left to face the elements throughout winter. This spring and all through the year right up to now the roses were very poor, in fact hardly any worthy of picking for a Bulgarian princess.

The thought of going through three Bulgarian seasons without vibrant perfumed Bulgarian roses in the garden is something that I never want to happen again. It was my intention to prune and bury some five weeks ago, but we had guest in the farmhouse and for the last week I have slipped a disc in my back, so it still hasn’t been done. We have been very lucky there has only been one or two night that the temperatures have fallen below zero, so no damage done so far. There is however the forecast of a cold break in the weather and snow on its way for Christmas Day. We do not plan to go to the farmhouse initial after Christmas what with family festivities and my bad back.

Throughout Christmas the roses will be playing on my mind and frustration not being able to physically do what needs to be done. We just hope that there is a speedy recovery and this garden chore can be done within the next week, even is it means clearing the snow out of the way to do it.

Does anyone else have such a strong urge to do garden to the point of getting stressed out about it?

What Makes a Good Christmas?

What Makes a Good Christmas?Having now got really quite sick by watching all the crap on TV about buying expensive Christmas presents, I saw an article today that tried to answer the question, what makes a good Christmas? The conclusion was, and I agree, covered many things but definitely not money.

We will be spending Christmas with family here in Bulgaria with lots of food, drink, music, dance talk and love, but no expensive present swapping. Firstly we can't afford it and secondly, which leads on from the first point, it is insulting and quite rude to give expensive presents here it just embarrasses.

I have quoted an exert from the article I read, and mentally equated to it really easily, how about you?

From Money doesn't make a good Christmas

If spending money on expensive gifts is what makes a good Christmas for some people, I sorrow for their Christmases when money is tight.

At this time, when more and more people are struggling to pay their bills and keep ahead of gloomy economic forecasts, it's nice to know a good Christmas is really about love and good will, smiles and songs, friendship and family.

What Makes a Good Christmas?At its most basic level, a good Christmas is about a young couple, arriving in a strange place with nowhere to stay but a stable full of animals and no gifts to give each other but the baby that was born there.

That was a good Christmas.

Google Translator - Very Funny Sometimes

We have discovered Google translator and now I can write to my Bulgarian partner Galia in Bulgarian and Galia in turn can write to me in English and fully understand each other better than ever before - it is like an instant miracle or getting a sixth-sense. We have been writing to each other for the last few days through Skype using the Google translator before posting our messages, fantastic, but extremely funny sometimes.

As with all non-human translators, the meaning and phrasing don't always make a logical statement and such was the case on many occasions over the last couple of days.

I have given a few of these funny moments for you to see. My short explanation of the intended meaning is bracketed underneath.

tonight I will hire some food
(Tonight I will buy some food)

you breakfast?

(Have you had breakfast)

increase the degree of air conditioning and let your oven

(Turn the air-conditioner up and light the gas fire)

a man who lives for us will lead me
(a neighbour will drive me (home))

You sit on your ass
(Can you sit down on your bottom yet? - referring to my slipped disc injury)

after work I go drink in a brandy plum and salad
(I'm going for a Salad and Rakia after work - she was teasing me as I am confined in bed)

No doubt there will be many more of these in the future

Women's Boxing in Yambol

Women's Boxing in YamWomen's Boxing in YambolDuring the last few weeks I have seen many posters that have gone up showing women boxing, there are lots of posters around trying to catch your attention. As I was waiting outside a shop for the women who as usual spent ages in the shop I took a closer look at one of these posters. It was in Bulgarian, but I could make out quite a bit of the transcript.

It was quite surprising that Yambol or the City of Yambol as it was incorrectly announced, was the venue for the first European Women's Youth and junior Boxing Championships. There were reported to be 130 boxers competing for the European title from 15 different Nations.

Not really interested in boxing let alone women boxing I didn't think anymore about it until the Bulgarian television news came on in the evening. It covers the event and announcing that a Russian won the gold and an Irishwoman coming second for sliver. Like I said, I'm not too interested in boxing and the thought of women punching the hell out of each other just drops even further in the appeal stakes. I'll tell you what though; quite few of the Babas in my village would do well in this sport. They are as strong as oxes and a s fit as a fiddle with the manual work they do each day of there lives, even the men daren't mess with them.

What does everyone else think of women's boxing?

The Answer is Always Food in Bulgaria

Thanks to all those who sent get well messages.

Whenever I am ill, for whatever reason, unless suffering form malnutrition of course, I lose my appetite. Either I don’t eat at all of very little; it’s just the way I am illness just make me lose my appetite. Being ill is rare for me anyway so the abstaining of food doesn’t happen that often, well actually it is never allowed to happen here in Bulgaria with the food driven society, in a country called the bread bucket of Europe. Every couple of hours there is food pile driven your way by Baba, it has been well documented since I have been here.

So with my slipped disc, there is another move along the Bulgarian learning curve. Whatever your disposition, food is the answer. Whether your fit or ill you have to eat and eat lots and often if you are a man. It is a constant battle fighting off food every minute of the day. The longer I go without food the more intense the food fight becomes, how ironic that this continuous food being making me mentally ill!

The Answer is Always Food in BulgariaThis morning two or three times an hour, every hour, I get approached with food on a plate that I had already said I don’t want and then there is a little sulk as it gets taken away again. Later in the morning another tactic, I get a peeled and sliced apple handed to me.

I say, “Thanks you very much, but I don’t feel like food right now.”

The comment replied was, “It’s not food it’s an apple!” I laugh and it hurts.

It is almost like being force fed but not quite there; it gets to the point where I get angry as the effort it takes to keep refusing is immense and with back pain always there my temper rises slightly into a nervous laughter just like after the apple comment and laughter really hurts when you have a slipped disc.

Surely it would be better to just accept the food and be done with it is what I sometimes think. The pressure to take this route is tremendous and would solve everyone’s frustrations expect mine, after all, it is my choice whether to eat or not. Or is it?

The whole idea by trying to get me to eat, I know, is to try and get me better They firmly believe that eating lots of food is the best route to take when you are ill, evenif you are overweight. This is understandable and I know that they are 100% behind trying to the best they possibly can for me, unfortunately they don’t just have a difficult patient, but an English one.

Sick? Bulgarians Know Best

It is a sense of total frustration in Bulgaria when you are sick, times like this just can’t be avoided as everyone had a bout of illness at some point. It was my turn this week. How do the Bulgarians look after me? Too much fuss from my experience.

I had been ill before having impaled my foot with a pitch fork a couple of years ago, that was the last time I have had needed support. Even then I was fussed over from everyone, checking up every few hours doing all the chores I couldn‘t do on the farm, it was overbearing sometimes, but it was reassuring that the community would never let you be ill on your own.

After screwing my Lada headlamps back in – they had come loose driving over the pot-holed Yambol roads twice a day – I leant down to check the headlight windscreen wiper and in tandem with a big crack there was a sudden burst of pain in my lower back. I had slipped a disc and knew right then that this would be a long healing process – I had done this once before in 1990.

News was out as I was on my hands and knees crawling into the house to the amazement Galia and Baba, they thought at first I was up to my tricks, but soon realised that the acting was far too good. The trouble was that I knew exactly what the problem was and they didn’t, but they thought they did. Bulgarians are always so confident that they know best, especially so as I was a foreigner here. What’s that got to do with me not knowing what my injury is I’ll never know.

Being Bulgarian they took charge, it didn’t matter what my diagnosis and suggestions for a remedy, I was helpless to do anything about it. What I needed was a day or tow lying down with a couple of painkillers and heat rub and I’ll be right as rain by the weekend, but that opinion was never going to sway the opinion of Bulgarians.

It was off to a cousin who was a doctor for some advice, the advice that came back was a series of injection, one batch for killing the pain the other was a steroid based injection. I just hate injection and faint at the thought, but this is out of my control. These drugs can be bought over the counter with no prescription, which was a little worrying.

Next thing I know, I am having a needle Sir Lancelot would have been proud of stuck into my bum. Half any hour later I couldn’t feel a thing. This is not what I wanted. I now don’t know whether my back is getting better or not. The following night another dose of injections and later that second evening I was evening dancing a little bit before going to bed.

My fear was realised that third morning when I couldn’t even lift a leg to get out of bed. The painkiller had worn off and I was paralysed and that how I am right now. I am due for another final injection tonight, which I don’t want, but it will be administered. The dancing last night just must has dislodged something and not being able to feel a thing or realise it had now happened.

Who know what will become of me tomorrow?

UPS - Something Good to Say About America

Having worked for the Post Office as my very first full time job when leaving school, I have never really had a good word to say about them since. I know what goes on behind the lines and the naughty bits that have and continue to affect peoples' private and personal messages and goods being sent.

The amount of post that have decided to 'go missing' since moving to Bulgaria has been ridiculous. In my first year here living in my village there have been at least 20 letters and packages that have never turned up. I know for a fact that at least that number haven't arrived at at UK and other country destinations during that period. Since then of course I just don't use the postal service unless there is no other alternative, at least not the National postal services that are on offer. Even this month I have had my books from my publisher not arriving and then there's Galia's Christmas present through mail order off eBay still not arrived after one month! Money we can ill afford to loose. It is disheartening to know that someone somewhere has possession of these items, they just don't get lost they get stolen!

Anyway, one company that hasn't let me down is the UPS a USA owned Parcel Delivery Company, well there's one good thing about the USA I can now say is good. It electronically tracks and gives the whereabouts of parcels at each point of delivery which you can see online. It can't get lost that's for sure.

I had ordered 100 copies of my recently published book and decided on using UPS to delivery with this system in place. I couldn't afford to lose more revenue for packages 'going missing'.

This is the current report I saw a few minutes ago:

Package Progress

Location Date Local Time Description


12/15/2008 7:00 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

12/12/2008 6:20 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

12/12/2008 4:31 A.M. ARRIVAL SCAN



BARKING, GB 12/08/2008 10:31 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

12/08/2008 7:02 P.M.


It is due to be delivered tomorrow - 17th December, which is the day they predicted it will arrived on the first day. It is quite amazing how many countries the books had travelled through to get to my town of Yambol in Bulgaria.

From now on UPS will be my choice of parcel delivery, I don't think I'll bother with letters anymore! Thank God for e-mail...

Shock Waves Throughout Bulgaria from Student's Death

Bulgaria as whole is a non-violent society and away from cities and big towns criminal activity is very rare. Even in the urban and built up areas it is relatively safe to walk the streets in most places. So when a unprovoked beating took place leading the death of the victim, this was big news in Bulgaria, solely because it is a rare incident.

A Bulgarian student was beaten to death by a group of drunken lads during a Disco event in Studentski Grad on the 5th December. Studentski Grad is an area close to the capital with over 50,000 purpose built and affordable apartments for students who attend colleges and universities in Sofia. The attack, which was also made on his friend, was without warning and for no apparent reason.

The Studentski student community has been in a state of shock for over a week now and on Friday 11th December over 1,000 Bulgarian students alongside respected professors formed a peaceful rally protesting against the murder of the pharmacy student who was only 20 years old. The protest demanded tougher security measures on the campus and threatened if not met further rallies and protests will continue indefinitely.

Like many crimes in Bulgaria, when it happens most people know who did it. There were five suspects detained and remain either on bail of in custody, which back up this fact.

This is a major shock to the student community and the country as a whole. Many feel that 'yobs' and unprovoked drunken violence from youngsters is now embedded in young Bulgarian culture and is here along with the American rap music (well actually not music just gross and foul language) This helps fuel everything that is bad about a bad and permissive society. Not good news for Bulgaria, but this is still rare here right now.

Just a note to go alongside:
Most drunk related crime and deaths for that matter come from summer tourists at the other end of the country drinking it up on the Black Sea Coast. Bulgarians I know look at this and just can't understand why people are so anti-social and act like this.

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

On a previous post entitled 'Monster Banks in Yambol' it was clear that the number of new banks that were opening up in Yambol were overtaking the character of the town. Today I went around Yambol and took pictures of Banks that I knew where trading. These banks pictures aren't an exhaustive amount, there are a few more around which I didn't pick up on. The worst fact is that there will be more in the future turning this town and indeed this country into a credit based society just like America and western Europe - Look what a pickle these countries are in now!

I have left some blank space below for your protection. So, if you hate banks or are of a nervous disposition don't scroll down to view them!

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol

Horror Pictures of Monster Banks in Yambol