Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cakes and Cars

It's the last day of 2014 and I know many expect us to be saying good riddance and hoping next year is a better year.   We're not,  2014 was a GREAT year.    Yes we had some hiccups but those hiccups gave us  a fantastic opportunity to rebuild our home, even better.   They restored our faith in the goodness of people, friends and strangers and showed us that together Paul and Tracey are a great team.

In the spirit of team-work December has been a month of weight gain for me as the experimental cakes I've been making to feed Paul's sweet tooth have been shared equally.    It took many attempts but the recipes for Peanut butter cupcakes, Cottage cheese and cinnamon cakes, Choc and ginger cupcakes are now perfected although the Chocolate and Banana Juice cakes need more work as the banana flavour wasn't strong enough.    Oh I forgot the coffee and walnut cupcakes which by now have become my fallback 'need cake' bake.    I made a double batch on one occasion so I could thank Baba Bonner (lives across the green from us) for the terlitsi she made us.   The gratitude with which she accepted the cakes, with some goose feathers she'd requested, was humbling after all the things she has done for us this past year.

Terlitsi (yes I always wear odd socks)

Paul and I went out for a day of builders merchants and supermarkets and it was only a few hours after our return that I realised I hadn't felt a sense of pessimistic dread on the approach home.    previous trips out have resulted in a stomach sinking and general tensing up in the last few miles  expecting to see our home burnt to the ground.  Illogical I know but it happened and I'm pleased to be over that stage.

Following a flippant comment I made (do I make any other type) about a friends heart shaped Yorkshire Puddings a trip to Ruse and shops was arranged so she could increase her kitchen supplies.    As our cats seem to enjoy eating silicon cake moulds I thought it a good opportunity to obtain some replacements,    The tray, bread tins, cork sheets, board game and a few other pieces all magically jumped into my hands as I was walking around the store and refused to be returned to the shelves.    During the trip on of our friends mentioned that a friend of hers needed a house sitter over the holiday period, the money originally offered seemed low for such a last minute request for a time most people want to be with their families.  The possibility of earning some money for building materials did hold some interest, so I mentioned it to Paul who had no objections to us being apart over the festive period.    Negotiations over financial reimbursement started being conducted via email, the outcome was not as much as I think it should have been but it meant we could obtain 120 square metres of good quality insulation materials without dipping further into savings.

We had an enquiry from a Taiwanese guy via Helpx who needed a host on fairly short notice.    My initial response was 'sorry, not this time of year' but after I mentioned it to Paul my decision was over-ruled and we contacted the guy to say he could come for a few days to give him a base whilst sorting out a longer term host.    It kind of went wrong from the start with Paul not taking a phone with him when he went to collect and then the potential helper had decided to get the train not the bus (stations miles apart) but it wasn't a disaster and we ending up hosting someone who found jobs to keep himself busy for a couple of weeks.    I do think if we hadn't specifically requested him to move on he would still be here but my mindset wasn't   geared to having others around.   Winter is Paul and Tracey time - little work gets done but we play with ideas, chop wood,  potter with numerous small jobs and generally just live.

Mid December some of the 'ladies' I know organised a lunch in Veliko Tarnovo and although I didn't want to go I did want to go.  I'd missed the previous two through either being busy with the rebuild or too injured to drive the 90 kilometres, each way.   A couple of friends in the area mentioned they fancied going so I volunteered to drive, this would prevent me from finding a last minute excuse for cancelling. I''m pleased I did 'con' myself into going as it was a great relaxing, and fun, time.   However, the day before did witness me having a major 'hissy fit' when I found mice had nibbled at clothes which hadn't been protected by cinnamon sticks.  We arrived in Veliko Tarnovo early as we knew there was a seasonal market on and I'd managed to get Paul a pair of long thick socks at last years, which unfortunately got burnt - he ended up with 4 replacement pairs.     Driving back wasn't great, getting used to this scenario,   thick fog meant the last 16 kilometres took me just over an hour to drive and I didn't see a pothole which meant I buckled another wheel rim.   Thankfully Paul's judicious use of a club hammer sorted the buckled rim.

The Ladies in front of Veliko Tarnovo Market

A couple of days before me leaving to do the house sitting a friend in France video Skyped us, a conversation that reduced me to tears.     Because she is always busy with work at the end of December she celebrates her birthday and Christmas a month late (we have crazy friends what can I say) her birthday present to herself was going to be airline tickets for Paul and myself to help her celebrate.    We accepted her statements that we needed a holiday away from here, together but also knew that money would be better spent rebuilding or home, and therefore live, here.    Initially we didn't want to accept, what we saw as, charity but the fact that she said she wanted us there, made us swallow our pride and accept the offer.      A deciding factor was the fact that she said she wanted to see us, she's as stubborn about admitting attachment to people as I am.   So, weather permitting, we're off to northern France end of January for a week.     We still need to find someone to feed the animals for us whilst we're away but that shouldn't be a major problem.

Paul and myself had a day to ourselves between the helpxer leaving and me going off to house sit.    I have no idea what we did other than enjoy each others company.

House sitting was uneventful and slightly boring, although I did manage to do some crochet and read 3 books.      I often believe that we do not do as much as we should here but being put in a situation where the only thing that needs doing is dogs walked and dogs and cats fed made me realise how much our pottering does achieve and satisfy me.    The lady I was house sitting for must have thought I was an idiot with my questions about when her wood burner flues were last cleaned, but I'd noticed straight away she had no fire extinguishers, or fire blankets.     Initially she had been planning on getting a bus to her daughters, about 4 hours away but because of the quantity of stuff to take decided to drive.     When I contacted her on the 26th to enquire about the time she expected to be returning the following day I was very surprised to learn she was returning via Sofia, as the weather forecast was not good.    

I left there on the 27th about 1730 hours not looking forward to the drive back in the dark and snow - although I knew once I got out of the valley a friend lived 15 minutes away and had told me to go there if the conditions were too dangerous for getting home.    Desire to get back to Paul may have clouded my judgement but once out of the valley the drive home looked as thought it would be easy, unfortunately conditions deteriorated about 15 kilometres down the road.    In addition to the (heavy) snow fall I now had fog to contend with, logically I was closer to friends house than home but ...   Anyway I drove on, at a snails pace, but it wasn't long before Paull got the first of a few 'phone calls   I passed a road sign for a place name I didn't recognise so became convinced I'd taken the wrong road.     With the help of Google maps Paul was able to tell me I was on the right road and also told me upcoming landmarks.   I went back to my plodding along and luckily nobody else seemed stupid enough to be one the roads as I didn't acquire a queue of traffic behind me.     Eventually I got to roads I was familiar with and started feeling more confident about reaching home,  oh dear, that confidence was misplaced as I swerved to avoid a big pothole and went into a skid.    This, obviously,  resulted in me phoning home again not because I expected Paul to come to my rescue but as I'd stopped inches from a ditch I needed to talk to Paul in order to calm myself down before attempting to reverse back onto road.      I was a bit naughty as I told Paul I'd phone him once car was on the road but because there was now traffic around I took the opportunity of a break in the traffic to continue the homeward journey.   He did get a 'phonecall about 30 minutes later when I needed to stop for a wee break, and spotted a layby not covered in deep snow.

It was nice to get home, even though Paul did complain the meal he'd prepared for me was burnt and probably tasted awful - it was great.        The following day I unloaded the car and was pleased that despite the work they require Paul liked the lights I had acquired at a reasonable cost.     They will end up costing us more than new lights but the shape and style will go well with the vaulted ceiling.

The large one was one of a pair, unfortunately t'other one didn't survive the fire .   The 2 smaller ones are the new purchases.

I know those reading this have seen numerous pictures of the roof from inside but thought you might like the picture I took earlier this month showing the new roofline from the road leading to the house.

I hope some of you, at least, will return in 2015 to peruse my ramblings and in the meantime we wish you all the best of years.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Competitions and weather

So Paul finishes working away and arrives home unexpectedly to find me having cereal for dinner, as it's not really worth cooking for one.     I blame the friends he was working with as they had vehicle problems and the plan was for Paul to leave our van with them and me collect him the following day.    But never mind the telling off I received Paul is home and after a few days rest, for him, we can get back to work on our home, a can we discuss a proposition we have received.

Since 17th October we have been going around to the neighbours to feed his dog and cat, which enabled him to visit his son and grandchildren in New York.     I know our Bulgarian is not as good as it should be but we were definitely told 15 or 16 days.   Three and a half weeks later! neighbour returns having had a great time and most grateful to us for animal sitting.  The fact that he returned with gifts and then offered to pay us for looking after the animals (he bought the food and we refused his money) made me feel mean for getting frustrated about his delayed return.    His pleasure at seeing his family also made me think again about a quick trip to France next year to see my father, not a snowballs chance in hell of him visiting me, here.

 Pops place

 After Illiya returned we decided to have a trip to Ruse in the van and stock up on building materials for winter projects.    Unfortunately Paul damaged his back moving out old kitchen petchka  (which I had sold) so we ended up going in the car, as it's more comfortable.    this meant we didn't get plasterboard and more insulation but we did manage to buy a set of ladders that fold down to a sensible length but fold out to enable us, actually Paul, to access the roof easily.     Much to Paul's delight I also managed to locate a set of metal wood planes in one of the DIY stores.  We also added a new DIY store to our Ruse trips making a trip there consist of 4 DIY stores, a Chinese meal and very little else.

We were approached by researchers, for a channel 4 television programme, who had been given our details and after reading our blog wanted us to agree to Kevin McCloud spending a week here in January or February.   Much as we like Mr McCloud we felt that the stated purpose of the programme was not appropriate to having a film crew here during 'hunker down' months.    We also felt that anyone agreeing to appear on a 'inspirational self-sufficiency' television programme would be setting themselves up for a lot of back lash from some elements of the ex-pat community.    It's not even as if they pay for the inconvenience - if they'd offered to finance a new barn roof they MAY have received a different answer.   teehee

I manged to find a couple of very good condition preloved single beds for sale at a  good price, and whilst not a double they'll be an improvement from Paul having a mattress on the floor.  We can always push them together.

It's said that 'good things happen to good people' what a pile of crock!     Some friends of ours, two of the nicest most generous humans around, had a major house fire in which the husband suffered bad burns trying to save one of their rescue dogs.    Mutual friends  discussed whether Paul and myself should be informed,  I love them for being concerned enough to have the discussion but would have been so annoyed if they had kept the news from us.   I understand they wanted to protect us and if I was going to return to being a blubbering wreck it wouldn't help the friends who needed help now.     We couldn't drop everything and go when we heard but did manage to get to see them a couple of days later when we found out what they may have need of over winter.    Following day we sorted out loaded the van with tools they had loaned us, after our fire, blankets/rugs and curtains ready to go help with the clean-up the next day.    They have a house to live in, less than 50 metres from the fire damaged property, and when we left it was well on the way to having many life enhancing features, such as a woodburner and beds, ready for them to occupy.   

We'd already 'stolen' some of the EPS (expanded polystyrene) boards from our extension for insulating between the beams in the main house and after seeing how our friends house, which was timber construction insulated with EPS went up, we are now stealing the rest, for ceiling insulation, and only using rockwool insulation in our extension.

Insulation between beams

As mentioned in the last update the staircase needed repositioning, otherwise Paul  knocking himself out on a beam was going to be a regular occurrence.    We cleared floor space so we had lots of 'wiggle room' and proceeded to play 'where will the stairs fit'.      They've ended up about 4 inches (100cm) from their original location and in their original orientation.    Oh well at least we now KNOW the other half a dozen possibles wouldn't work long-term.    

Some of the staircase reject positions

The walls behind the staircase location have been deplastered, ready for a new finish to be applied, and as I was on a roll the hallway also got deplastered.       Whether we do any work in this area during the next couple of months will depend on the weather,  we may just use winter as an excuse for planning, designing and working on small projects near a woodburner.    The Bulgarian sunshine, which we normally see most days even in the depth of winter seems to have gone on holiday.  I'm not sure if it's the lack of sunshine, replaced by miserable UK type grey skies, or just general tiredness that has produced too many slobbing days.     Lots of lists have been produced of things we need to do to move the rebuild forward but as yet none of them have been translated into completed tasks.

 Partially deplastered hallway

I also won in two competitions.     First one was a new tattoo, which I'm not ready for yet but the owner of the tattoo saloon ( agreed to me donating the prize to another friend who is addicted to getting tattoos and was our mainstay back in June/July.     The second competition was ran by a UK friend, to get her crafts FB page ( to a hundred 'likes'.   My middle sister tried to get me to chose things she wanted, yeah like that was going to work - I've got a home to decorate.

22nd of November we felt the earth move.    Wayhey     Initially I thought it was one of our kamikaze cats trying to jump through a closed window, but even they don't cause that much disturbance, an 11 litre water bottle was definitely wobbling.    Google search showed that there had been an earthquake about 300 km north of us in Romania (5.3 on some scale or other), no damage caused here or elsewhere as far as I know.     One good thing about Bulgarian house insurance (yes we have some now) is they don't refuse cover for acts of some mythical being, so earthquakes, floods, lightening strikes, etc can all be insured against.

In other news my mobile is on mute with friends contacting us via internet or Paul's mobile.    It seems some sad individual is having problems sleeping so 'phoning us at silly o'clock,   FYI  silly o'clock is anytime that is too early to let the animals out for the day.     The first couple of times, before we muted the 'phone it was great as we achieved so much in the extended day provided.   Paul has been having problems getting to sleep due to injuring his back so after a couple of days early morning wakeup calls started taking their toll and the phone was muted.    If it's someone who wanted to build bridges but hadn't built up the courage to talk they will have other ways of contacting us, if it's just a sociopath no doubt they'll get bored of not getting an answer.

In the past few days we have also updated our profiles on and so it is more reflective of where we are now.      Since June we have just been adding updates which made the profiles very messy and confusing, not sure we're happy with the finished article but as we are unlikely to have any helpers before March we have plenty of time to fine tune.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reluctant update

OK I can't put this off any longer otherwise I'll never get back to giving you monthly updates.     The last post from us was Paul in England for 10 days (mid August) lots and little has happened since then and as I'm still excessively emotional apologies, in advance if this posting is more disjointed than normal.

The helpxer who arrived just before Paul left for England gave me peace of mind regarding bee stings, or other accidents, by his mere presence but despite telling me I shouldn't be doing so much whilst injured never thought of offering to feed the animals, or us.    He was very aware of social injustices and unnecessary consumerism but hadn't yet made the jump to adjusting his own requirements preferring to comment on others failings.    To be fair I think when younger we are, nearly, all selfish idealists gaining insights on personal change and compromises as we age, and learn living in this world isn't as simple as we'd like it to be.

I deglazed, stripped, painted and reglazed what seemed like, hundreds of window frames (actually only 10 frames with 20 panes) whilst Paul was away although with hindsight it wasn't a clever move.    I should have either left the glazing or cobbled together a lower work surface as the reaching up to press down, for the putty, aggravated my back injury.   I also managed to lose the only immobiliser fob thingy in town.   Luckily I had been meeting a friend and she drove me back to the village, but that meant for 4 days I had no car, phone, internet or other means of contacting the outside world.

When Paul returned we were able to repay, in a small way, some of the help we received immediately after the fire.    Although we had always said we wanted to do all the work ourselves we had to accept that sometimes you need others to take some of the pressure off you.   One of the couples sons has been training to become a plasterer and although he hadn't done a full wall, let alone a full room before we employed him to work on our home.    Dayle lived with us during the week, and was a pleasure to have around, I have eventually stopped referring to him as a Stepford child.

As we now had electric decided it was time to pop into the Vivacom shop and let them know our 'phone line wasn't working an we may have burnt their box.     Anyway engineer comes out, none of the boxes on the back wall were anything to do with Vivacom and we just had a problem with our base unit.   One new base unit later we can talk with our family, back in the UK.    That seriously made me feel better, I don't need to see them often but keeping in touch is important to me, although if they managed to join the 21st century and used Skype that would be so much better.      Talking of Skype, when we'd originally had internet put in they had taken the cable to the pole in front of the house and just thrown a load of cable over the roof to feed in through the living room window.    Luckily although the fire had burnt (obviously) the centre part of the cable there was sufficient at either end for Paul to splice said cables together and get us internet access back.   Wow at this rate, electric, hot water, phone, internet we may become civilised once again, then again this is us ...

Just as Dayle was finishing the plastering another friend, a carpenter, informed us that he had juggled his work load to come over and help us put the extension roof on.     This was great news as David was enthusiastic about our ideas to reuse some of the old timbers in the roof, something the builders who did the main house roof had refused to do.     The old timbers weren't to be used as part of the main structure, although they would add strength their main purpose was to tie the post fire property back in with it's past.   Oh yes and look beautiful.        Dayle was asked if he'd like to stay on for another week, for 2 reasons mainly we hoped it would lead to him getting more work (it did) and secondly I had to be honest about my limitations and accept I wouldn't be able to work on this project.    Hell I was still having problems walking more than a few metres.   As you'll no doubt be able to tell from the excess of photographs I am so happy with the roof.

I'm also very proud of Paul and the mezzanine he put in, with a LITTLE bit of help from myself.   

At the end of September we visited a chiropractor, in Veliko Turnovo, that a friend had recommended..   There is no appointment system just queue and wait (4 hours) but on the upside if you decide to visit the builders merchants after a couple of hours people keep your place in the queue for you.    The chiropractor relocated my hip and a spinal disc or 2 but then told me no work for a couple of weeks and to take painkillers/anti-inflammatories.      I did rest, as much as possible, for 2 weeks and even now I listen to my body much more, although I'm still inflicting pain to myself - the work won't do itself and Paul is still doing more than his fair share.

We had a couple of days snow towards the end of October, which although earlier was nice as it showed us where our winter preparations were lacking,  apart from the obvious not having 3 months of supplies in the cellar.     This winter is going to be a challenge as we are living in the (unfinished) main house for the first time and we still have much work to do to finish off the property.     Although in all fairness to ourselves, I think the fact that the extension has NO heating in it means we will do minimal, if any, work on that until March concentrating instead on getting a couple of rooms in the main house decorated.     If we don't feel like work we may just hibernate and start afresh in spring, although I do have a couple of pieces of Bulgarian, furniture I want to refurbish and we've put a petchka in the temporary  workshop  (main house spare room).

Before the really cold weather arrives we need to relocate the internal staircase that Paul, the genius, built.     Luckily we didn't fix it into final position because using it, unfixed it's THAT good, has uncovered a siting flaw.   This is nothing major and fits in with our ethos of living with ideas before making them fixed in stone, or wood in this case.    The final positioning of the staircase does effect the kitchen design though, so we need to sort it so I can have a 'proper' kitchen again.  Field kitchens, or corner of living/sleeping area kitchens, are all well and good but I miss creating proper meals and treats.

I mentioned earlier that Dayle helping with the extension roof led to more work for him it also led to work for Paul, helping on a building refurbishment.    Unfortunately this meant he was away Monday morning until Friday night for a couple of weeks,   Miss Independent I Can Do That  had been taught it was ok to ask and accept help only for her 'teacher' to abandon her.  Boohoo.    It was a sad time but also I realised how much I had learnt about my own limitations, we had some MORE windows that needed stripping down and sanding and much as I love playing with power tools the size of these windows made them hard work so I did little and often.  My favourite Bulgarian expression at this time is leko po leko (literally it means "slightly slightly" but tends to be used as English speakers would say "little by little")

Reading back over this post it has a definite negative feel about it.  I apologise for that but will admit to having lost my mojo recently, as my strength returns it'll return and hopefully lots of little projects will be completed over the hibernation months.   In between looking after the animals

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Five weeks with someone else's teenagers

13th Julya month since the fire and I arrive home with Paul's youngest 2 children who are staying for five weeks.    When the flights were booked 8 months previously we started making a list of places to visit and things to do with them.   Unfortunately all plans are null and void as rebuilding our home HAS to take priority.   However it was Jim's 13th Birthday the week they arrived and we couldn't let that go unrecognised, so a trip to Ruse it was.   First off Jumbo, which I thought was just a toy megastore but it's actually a home wares shop as well, Jim picked up some plasticine and as it was his birthday how could we not get it for him.    Then no trip to Ruse is complete without a visit to at least one builders merchants so a flying visit to Mr Bricolage was followed by a leisurely lunch in Ruse' main square.    


Paul choose the establishment based on the food would appeal to the kids, not only because of the length of the waitresses skirts/belts­, at least that's his story.     After lunch we had a wander around and Jim decided he needed to check the water temperature of each and every fountain/water feature.   


 Luckily he didn't want to check the water temperature of the Danube when we went for a walk along it's bank.  

A couple of days later and the builders are all finished, off site and we can start on the other jobs that will make our house home again.   Not many teenagers get to work with mud plaster and mix cement during their summer holidays but thanks to help from a neighbour, Ruby and Jim Paul managed to get the concrete ring beam done so work on roof 2 could begin when out master carpenter friend was available to oversee.

You may have noticed I wasn't involved with concrete  making - the month since the fire rudely reminded me not only was I a 'mere female' but I was also getting older.   As I'd ignored the warning signs my body was sending me I managed to cause some back injury and dislocate my hip.    The hip dislocation provided some light entertainment as Paul relocated it for me - along with my ankle and knee doing sound effects as each one popped back into place.

More light entertainment was provided when a neighbour told us that Dencho (our Kmet [mayor] who had driven past when the fire was blazing) didn't realise we still had no electric and if we took our customer number up to his house straight away he would get on to the electric company on our behalf.   Within 2 minutes Paul, Ruby and Jim are walking up the hill to Dencho's house when he drives past them and waves when Paul tries to flag him down.   The kids were less than complimentary about him and he is now to be referred to as The Kermit. 

Despite my concerns about the holiday not being what had been 'promised'  both Ruby and Jim coped with the situation very well, with only the odd moans about not going anywhere/doing anything.     Paul did take them to some local water falls one day, a couple of our friends also tagged along and seemingly they had a nice time with a 'supermarket picnic' lunch.   An international music festival had been organised in a village about 30 kilometres away so all 4 of us went to that, with Ruby and Jim staying longer and getting a lift home with a neighbour, as Paul and I needed to get back for the animals.  


   We also went to a carboot sale further afield although the main purpose of that trip out was to visit bigger, and quite beautiful, waterfalls.  

   I know at least Jim was disappointed that we didn't get a visit to the coast and I think both Ruby and Jim would have had a better time if we had been able to put the pool up for the summer, but we would have needed electric to run the pump.

A week before Paul was due to fly to the UK with the children we had a last minute enquiry through Helpx from an Australian who wanted to come stay.    After ensuring he was fully aware that we were still living in very basic conditions we agreed to his coming to help out - if nothing else it meant that I would have assistance around the place for heavy lifting whilst Paul was away.   Least said soonest mended.

Paul drove up to Bucharest airport for their flight to UK and I drove back to Bulgaria.     We had been told that it was quicker to use the ring road although Paul doubted this so drove straight through Bucharest.     On the drive back i was in 2 minds as which route to take,  but despite never have driven there myself decided to go through the centre as the roads were in much better condition than the ring road, and I was in a bit of pain at this point.    Even though I took the scenic route, once or twice, I think Paul is correct and it's much quicker than the ring road.    Once back in Bulgaria I decided to stop at the builders merchants in Ruse to have a walk around and stretch my muscles out, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.   Visits to Baumaxx, Praktiker and Mr Bricolage resulted in me returning home with some twin and earth electric cable and some new light fittings - luckily Paul approved of my purchases on his return.

So now I have 10 days before Paul returns and although I think 5 weeks was too long for a visit off Ruby and Jim,  especially this year,  the house is weirdly not right with them not here.   Only consolation about them not getting the holiday they expected is they got to experience real life, with all its problems, and spend some quality time with their dad seeing what an extraordinarily talented guy he is (even highlighting his daughters hair, with help from his son).

Shocking Service


On the 13th of June we had a house fire that destroyed our house, including the electricity meter and fuse box.   Whilst the fire fighters were still there we had 2 visits from EnergoPro staff, one to make the wires safe and the 2nd one to take a photograph of the melted meter.

A couple of weeks later we were starting to be proactive, rather than reactive and realised we would need the electric back on, for the builders if nothing else.   So on the 23rd June I went to the Popovo office, with my friend who was on holiday here to find it all locked up, a local suggested I speak to the electric desk in the post office, that was also unmanned.  One of the post office staff informed me Energo Pro staff would not be at work until the 26th of June, don't you just love these random company holidays.   Fast forward to the 26th and a return visit to Popovo office, 10am and all locked up so a trip across the square to the post office where I'm told to try again at 12noon.   After wandering around Popovo, and a coffee or 2 (the town's not that big) I eventually get to talk to a person, via an interpreter they phoned,  and was informed the paperwork needed to be issued at  Targovishte office.    When I got back, from the 2nd failed mission, Paul informed me the Energo Pro meter reader had been around!!!   
Paul, Diana (friend) and myself went to Targovishte the following day, because our spoken Bulgarian isn't great we wrote down what had happened and our need for a new supply.   We were told it would take a maximum of 7 days, and they would ring us when on the way.

On the 2nd July an engineer called to reconnect us and informed us he could do nothing as he expected us to have a meter and fuse box.    We were told to go to the Targovishte office and pay 250 leva.    The builders, who were on site by now, seemed to have difficulty understanding why the electric company couldn't manage to do a simple job like getting us power on site.

We went to the Targovishte on the 3rd July and paid 220,32 leva (Approx £95) and were told a maximum of 30 days!!!!!!!!    I will admit to having a incident of leaky eyes in Energo Pro offices.    And so the wait begins.    The leaky eyes resurfaced when we popped into the supermarket on the way home and an acquaintance asked how things were going.    She suggested we talk to a local (English speaking) advocate who was good at solving problems, we didn't know of him so she said she would wait for us to finish shopping then we could follow her to his office.   The advocate took copies of the paperwork we had been given and said he would need to go into the Energo Pro offices but would phone us the following day.    We never received his phone call, possibly because I wouldn't give him Power of attorney.   
The following afternoon I took the train to Sofia ready for Saturdays flight to the UK, possibly I was being overally optimistic but I fully expected to return to a finished roof (builders off site) and working electrics.    Oh well. best laid plans and all that.

Pepa & Boyan, our neighbours tried to help us, they contacted officials at Razgrad, Targovishte and Varna who all informed them the delay was due to lack of equipment.     On the 26th of June the Popovo office had at least a dozen meters.    How can a company get a contract without government officials ensuring they have the experience and equipment to supply what is expected of them.    Oh yes, this is Bulgaria you need neither experience or equipment if the brown envelope you hand over is padded enough.

It takes until Sunday the 27th of  July before we finally run out of patience and I send an email to Energo Pro customer services informing them that if we do not have a supply by the end of the week they will be in breach of contract and liable for any subsequent expenses we incur.   I also suggested that as soon as the contract was breached I was going out to buy solar panels which they would be invoiced for.     We received an automated response telling us to expect a response to the email within, yes you guessed, 30 days!!   

Monday 28th we get a customised response informing us that our request for an 'urgent connection' has been forwarded to the local office    WTF   We don't want an urgent connection we want what we paid for 25 days previously

Wednesday 30th July, I phone Energo Pro  to find out what is happening I am told, according to their terms and conditions, they have until Friday to fit us a meter.  When asked if this means we will have a supply by Friday I get the response "you should", pushing the point and asking if the person I was speaking to meant we were 100% guaranteed a supply by Friday she admitted it was possible but she wouldn't say definitely yes, when asked for her name I was given a surname only and told I didn't need more when I requested her full name.   Telling the Energo Pro customer services person I am entitled to know the full name of the person I am speaking to under European Law obtains the full name  -  I have no idea if this is a European Law but then most Bulgarian customer services personnel have no idea of European Laws either.  

2 hours after this 'phone conversation (which may have been more 'heated' than the above paragraph suggests) we get an email informing us we will have a supply by the end of the week.   The energy company will just connect to a meter outside the house everything after that is up to us so as an ex-pat electrician had offered to connect us an emergency supply to the house I 'phoned his wife to let her know he would possibly be needed in the next couple of days.    Paul and I had already discussed not wanting to rewire the whole house ourselves so this was an ideal opportunity to give some work to someone who was offering some emergency assistance, he gives us a temporary supply so we can get walls and ceilings ready for fittings and then we employ him to do the rewire.    We had been given a 16 way consumer unit, with a RCD and an Earth Leakage breaker, which a friend had surplus to requirements so we knew wired up correctly our electrics would be super safe.

Thursday I am at the neighbours borrowing their internet connection when Paul 'phones to inform me that Energo Pro have arrived and are putting us a meter and supply in, so much for the 'phone call telling us they were on the way.     I wander back up the hill to double check it's for real, this time, and then 'phone the wife of the electrician who had offered to put an emergency supply in.     Energo Pro had nearly finished the installation when Paul decided that we couldn't wait for the electrician and connected the mains to the consumer unit and then on to some emergency sockets.     It's probably just as well he did this as the offer of assistance had been 'just words'.   

The Energo Pro engineers were fantastic and did a really good job of installing our new meter it is just unfortunate that the administration side of the company is absolute rubbish.   One thing we did learn, which our Bulgarian neighbours weren't aware of is Bulgaria has an energy 'watchdog'  -  their website is  for those who may need it in future, we hope you never do.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

England Trip

November 2013 we had booked flights for me to go to England, for a week, so I could see my family and return with Paul's youngest 2 children, Ruby & Jim.    Although Ruby is old enough to fly alone the airlines  will not let her supervise her younger brother, they use age as a deciding factor, despite Ruby being more responsible than some people, at least, 10 years older than her.

Because of my flight time, from Sofia, I had the option of getting a middle of the night train and spending 9 hours at the airport or travelling up the day before and booking into a hotel.    Although Sofia is Bulgaria's capital city the Hotel Accord does rooms with breakfast for 39 leva (about £17), 9 hours at the airport would have cost me more than this, through sheer boredom.     I arrived at the hotel about 10pm and after dropping my bags in the room went down for dinner - 2 starters and a beer for 10 leva (less than £5), I dread to think how much an overnight hotel and dinner would have cost me in London.    A leisurely buffet breakfast, with unlimited coffee, was followed by a taxi to the airport as late as possible, I dislike the waiting around involved with air travel.   Because I was travelling with British Airways I had a 23kg baggage allowance plus  a cabin bag plus a personal bag, on the journey to the UK my cabin bag was IN my rucksack, I planned on coming back with books for Ruby amongst other things.

At Heathrow I left security and re-entered to check how long it took, so I would know if I had time to go through security with Ruby & Jim on the return flight (I was taking a connecting flight from Newcastle).   The security took so long I realised I would need to meet them airside so just hoped the fact that I would make sure we had seats together when I checked in would be enough for the airline to let them through unsupervised.  Despite me informing my mother that in addition to no pasta I wanted no fuss during my visit my arrival in Newcastle turned out to be a family affair.

Talk about embarrassing. 

I had taken a list of things that would be better obtained in the UK which my mother interpreted as I needed a week of retail therapy.    I nearly didn't get time to have an eye test - more expensive than having one here but we'd heard so many bad things about wrong glasses being prescribed I didn't want to risk it.  My eye test results weren't as scary as I'd been expecting, a reasonably mild prescription for reading glasses.  What was scary was trying to see anything in the distance with them on, they make the whole world blurry.

Because my baby sister was at work during my visit we had a lovely evening out, catching up with what was happening with each other, over Italian food and wine.   The following night was another meal out this time with mum, sister and various children to celebrate Vikkis birthday.   Day times passed in a whirl of shops but I did manage to buy some tins of paint at 20% of their RRP, neutral colours with feature walls.    Sounds a bit silly planning colour schemes when I didn't even have a roof on the house but I needed something to work towards that was a bit   none essential.   I also found, and bought  some Volkswagen wallpaper, we just need to decide where that will go, eventually.    The results of raiding mum's attic and the shopping trips means that a local transport company are bringing about 6 boxes over for us on their next trip.    Some things just couldn't wait until then, in addition to the books Ruby wanted to read Nutella, Peanut Butter, a selection of cheeses, window putty and some replacement swimming trunks for Paul were packed into the rucksack, along with various other bits and pieces.   I should have packed the peanut butter into the boxes coming over in September as Jim seems to be on a mission to finish the jar off during his five weeks here.   As I was spending my birthday in airports and planes my baby sister decided we were all going for a Chinese the night before.   I was pleasantly surprised my niece, and her daughter, came along and had a great time getting a one year old to eat rice off chopsticks.    Airport departure was much more sensible, than arrival,  with only mum there to make sure I left the UK.

My flight, to Heathrow, was late taking off and then we had problems on landing, we were sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate when Jaye (Paul's ex-wife) 'phoned me to see what was happening.   As a plane was blocking our designated gate we ended up taxiing to the international  terminal to be bussed back to domestic, I was not allowed to enter the terminal at international  so had a mad dash back over there after being disembarked at domestic arrivals.    I had told Jaye that the safest course of action was as soon as a gate number was displayed for our flight, to Bucharest, she should send the kids through security with instructions to go straight to the gate, and I'd meet them there.    As I reached international departure lounge I 'phoned Jaye to let her know and she told me the kids had gone through security and we were departing from Gate 20 (this information wasn't yet displayed in the departure lounge).    When I reached the gate the kids weren't there so I walked part of the way back to security,  if I'd walked further there was a chance that we would miss each other because of the escalator layout.   30 minutes later there was still no sign of the kids and only 10 minutes until boarding, I found out it is impossible to put out a tannoy message airside without it being heard landside other than one for the immediate vicinity of the departure gates.    I was beginning to seriously panic when Ruby and Jim came running around the corner, their mum had told them to wait at security for me.    Luckily Ruby saw the announcement signs saying the flight was beginning to board and decided that as we were being collected from Bucharest airport they'd go and see their dad whether I made the flight or not - smart kid.

Previously the kids had flown with Sleazyjet so British Airways, with inclusive food and drinks  was a pleasant surprise for them.  After an uneventful flight we arrived at Bucharest  airport, where we got another stamp added to the kids  passport,   and following an excessive wait for our hold baggage exited to find Paul and the neighbour who'd driven him up waiting for us.    The drive home seemed to take forever and although the roof was nearly finished I was slightly disappointed to learn we still had builders on site.    Paul had been warned that ignoring my birthday was not a sensible option so had found the time to make me a sign, which I appreciate more than if he'd gone out and just bought something (he still needs to make me a wooden pendant though)

Despite the builders on site and the fact that we still had lots of work that needed doing, so the kids wouldn't have the holiday they were expecting, it was good to be home.