Archive for the ‘Friends & Family’ Category


PHOTO: Jack, Sue’s brother stands on the jetty at Princess Royal Harbour, before boarding the ferry  with Suzie’s ashes.
(Photographer: Mike Adlam, family friend)

Well, one year has passed since Suzie, our Aussie-in-Bulgaria died.

The sadness remains; however, the pain of loss is subsiding, albeit only incrementally.

I was unable to bring myself to post the promised account of the Albany Farewell in May 2012. As the pain heals, I can now give the promised account.

It was an occasion of mixed emotions. About 250 people attended, and many travelled long distances to be present. The local Member of Parliament, the Hon. Peter Watson  read the official eulogy and others read their farewell messages.


PHOTO: Hon Peter Watson reads the eulogy at Suzie’s farewell.
(Photo: Ari Petursson, Sue’s Brother-in-Law)

There was sadness and contemplation amongst the crowd:


(Photo: Ari Petursson)

And of course as people regaled us with stories of Suzie’s full and adventurous life, there was much laughter.


(Photo: Ari Petursson)

Sue’s immediate family then boarded a ferry to go out into Princess Royal Harbour, and following Sue’s wishes, we scattered her ashes, with rose petals and sprigs of Rosemary and other flowers.


PHOTO: The ferry takes Suzie’s family out into the harbour to scatter a third of her ashes as she wished.
(Photo: Ari Petursson)

When we returned to the Quarantine Station, the venue for the Celebration of Suzie’s life, there was ample opportunity to revel in her fun life. There was a 354-slide Powerpoint presentation running continuously, and Suzie’s library of photo Albums was available to peruse. Most of the photos were of parties, and people having a lot of fun with the Queen of Welcomes, Suzie.  Her sister, Marie prepared a Montage Board telling the story of Sue’s life:


(Photo: Ari Petursson)

Many people from Suzie’s past offered photos to be displayed, and this one of her taking photography seriously at a VERY early age tells its own story:


PHOTO: Suzie taking photos at about 10 years of age ( that’e her with the camera!).
(Photo: Mr Eric Harley).

Although a celebration of a life well- and fully-lived, it was a sad occasion for which most of Sue’s family came together (some were overseas).  She would have loved the event, and I am sure would have been the last to leave… .

A quaggle of Quigleys 5 May 2012 - Copy

PHOTO: Suzie’s immediate family gather together to say”Goodbye”.
(Photo; Liza Gallen [Mercer], Sue’s niece.)

We celebrated with wine and fabulous food, listened to her prolific Library of music, cried, laughed, caught up with old and dear friends who cared for her. It was a Big send-off for a Big Goirl who had a Big Presence in our lives!

The main message at her fabulous farewell, was that  she showed us how important it was to take our fear in hand and go and Just Do It! Follow our dreams as she did hers.

Her legacy lives on with sweet memories and just a few drinks being enjoyed around the World by those who cared for her and loved her.

She rests in peace.

PS: I have just discovered and uploaded 27 messages from last year of which I was unaware. They are now inserted in the various posts to which they relate.

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but it’s not the end of the world ( she said hopefully)

After a week of being snowed in, Marie and I managed to get into Yambol on Tuesday so I could have my long overdue blood test. The results this time were mixed.  My red cells, hemoglobin and platelets have all shown some improvement, but the white soldiers have let me down again with a drop from 1000 back to 700.  I keep getting silly little infections because my immunity is all but non existent…these are things like urinary tract infections and thrush, things I haven’t had for 20 years or more…and strange things growing in my nose…and at the moment, I have a mouth full of ulcers and I just think that the few white cells I have are spending their time fighting these bloody infections and not getting a chance to improve.  When I turned in the good results a few weeks back, that was the first time for ages that I was completely infection free…so the war goes on.

Yesterday Marie made her departure back to Australia and I have some very sad animals around the place…Goosey didn’t disappoint and followed her right to the front gate honking his farewells to her.  If anyone knew something was up, it was him.  If the gate had been open, I have no doubt he would have tried to follow her into the taxi. And Gina, who didn’t show much at all when Marie was leaving, came into my room later that day and was very sad indeed. She sat with her head on my bed, not something Gina does, and just looked plain miserable.  Dinner time cheered her a little, but she’s not that happy this morning and clearly looking for that ‘other’ person.

And as when Jillian left before her, I felt very sad to see Marie go, but she needs to get back to her family and I need to continue to rebuild myself so that hopefully, by the time the weather is warmer, I’ll be doing some work.  It’s a very quiet house this morning.

The weather has warmed considerably so if I can muster the energy, I might try and take Gina for a bit of a shuffle around the village today.  I may not be able to move very quickly now, but I just let her free and she can run crazy…and she does.

Now I wait to hear back from Dr Amine…

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and so poor old Goosey continued to pine for his Lucy and every day he’s sat out the back calling, calling, calling for her.

Marie has been feeding him and watering him and slowly but surely you could see him starting to bond with her.  He got very excited when she appeared in the backyard and started following her very closely when she was there.  Even when I ventured into the backyard, he was almost affectionate and clearly just wanted some company, coming and sitting very close to me and even allowing me to touch him…but Marie was definitely the favourite.

He even figured out which room she was sleeping in and whenever she moved about her room or coughed or made any noise, he started calling her…I had to give her ear plugs for the night because she’s had a cough that sometimes wakes her at night and yes, every cough bought a chorus of Goosey calls for her.

Last Friday we went to Yambol so Nana ( that’s me) could have a bit of a day out and a bit of an airing. Hey, spending most of your life in bed is very boring and really starts to get you down after a while.  Anyway, I was in the bathroom drawing on a face when from down below, at the front of the house, I heard the funny little ‘putt putt’ noise that geese make.  I thought to myself that he must be out the front of the house…next thing I heard Marie’s voice asking ‘and what are you doing around here ?’  Well, clearly, looking for her !!

And the other day she decided to clear the snow from the front of the house and guess who discovered her there and spent the rest of the time keeping her company….it’s really sweet.

and people ask me why I don’t eat my geese !!  How could you eat something that forms bonds with  not only it’s own species, but with humans as well.  This has been fantastic to watch, Marie and her new bestie wandering around the yard.  He just loves her.

A friend made the comment that Marie may look out the window of the plane when she’s returning to Australia and see Goosey flying along next to her shouting ” Oi, where do you think you’re going…what about me ”

But don’t think I’ve forgotten his goosey needs.  A friend found me another goose and she’s beautiful

White, like her predecessor, but she has curly wings, which is lovely.  After Goosey’s initial excitement at meeting her, there’s been a bit of a cooling off and now she and Goosey and kinda skirting around each other a little, doing a lot of checking out of each other.  I’m hoping they do bond and in fact, Marie and I are sure they will once he forgets Marie  🙂

TooLucy, for that is her name, is a bit of a harpy and she nags him a bit.  When she does this, he promptly seeks out Marie.  She’s much quieter and doesn’t nag. I have no doubt that they will settle into each other and it will be nice to see Goosey with company again…he really has been so lonely and it’s been quite sad to watch.

Mind you, the ever practical Hristina on finding out that Lucy had been killed suggested that I knock his head off and eat him !!!

And me ??  I just continue to improve in my general health stakes.  Every day sees me in less pain and less difficulty and able to do more and more.  I have another blood test later this week and I’ve got everything crossed that the results are even better than the last lot.  I feel so much better and figure that must be a good sign.  Wish me luck.

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at Pirin Shestniaset  (Pirin 16…where I live)

So here I was, starting to feel a little nervous about Jillian’s impending departure and wondering if I could just manage on my own here while I  sorted out getting myself and Gina back to Australia, for this is the decision I had made.

Unbeknown to myself there were plans afoot that should have involved me but, for some reason, my family made the decision to exclude me from their ideas. Anyway, Tony blew that out of the water when he forwarded an email that certainly was not for my eyes and I then spat my dummy and insisted that anything that was being planned for me, was to include me.  Now, it was all good anyway and yesterday another of my sisters, Marie, arrived from Australia to take up the care duties of this broken down old soul.

So ‘Cyclone Jillian’ made her departure back to Australia this morning and the ‘quietly determined, don’t argue with me Marie Mercer’  (all 5ft of her) has stepped in to fill the breach.

I will never be able to thank Jillian for all she has done for me. I told her that this morning and really, there just isn’t.  She has certainly aided my recovery and made a huge difference to my mental state. She has done so much work around the place that should I actually be fit by Spring, getting the summer garden in won’t be too much of a chore, and she’s finished off dozens a ‘things’ around the house that I won’t have to worry about any more…she’s a bleedin’ star !!  And it’s been fun having her here, probably more fun for me than her, but fun none the less.

As I write this, she’s in a plane winging her way back to her real life, her dog and her home…and I suspect she’ll be glad to put her feet up for a few days before she gets back to work.

And working quietly around the place now, Marie is picking up where Jillian left off, and it is wonderful to have her here as well.  I guess I really don’t want to face this alone, and my sisters have made things just that big bit better.

To things bloody…I spoke with my doctor yesterday and he believes the reason my last result were so rubbish is because I had a couple of infections and was fighting them off instead to working to rebuild my immune system. Problem I have is every opportunistic little infection like thrush, herpes or urinary tract infections becomes a BIG problem for my system.  When I had my last blood test, I had the bloody lot….riddled I was !! and that would not help my white count.

So, this week I’m spending my time and Marie’s energy trying to build myself up again…mind you, I do have something nasty growing in my right nostril, but I’m sure I can beat that into submission before I have another test.  One of my brothers partners, Marilu, has sent me a blood tonic, which I’m getting stuck into and I’m jumping on any infections that try and poke their heads over the parapet, hopefully before they get established.  I even have a little pink in my lower eyelids, which is already an improvement on the last few weeks. With any luck, by Monday or Tuesday it will be time to have another crack at my blood

And look  …

I’m clearly not dead yet…and there’s even a little life in those eyes of mine

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My latest set of blood tests were a crashing disaster…now I wait to hear from my Doctor so we can figure out what the hell I’m going to do.  Perhaps I can wrap the house in plastic and become the woman in a bubble.  Mind you, can’t see my Gina being too keen on that…


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it went…the never ending illness !!

As today has been quite a good day, I’ve got Jillian to bring me the computer so I can try and catch up on a few things like emails and my webpage. So, here I am.

I was supposed to be in hospital last week having an operation, but because of my lousy blood results the Doctor cancelled.  I have had two tests just over a week apart and was very excited to get a marginal improvement in the second week, though 800 white soldiers instead of 700 still isn’t that fantastic AND, keep in mind, I should have a minimum of 4,000….but I was pleased and, considering it got as low as 300 in the early days,  it gave me a much needed little boost.

I’m ‘medicating’ up at the moment as I’m about to start another run of bone marrow sampling and blood testing.  Please god there’s been an improvement because if there hasn’t, we running out of places to go.

I still have to avoid all sick people though, which isn’t that difficult in a village with 400 people and great clean air. There’s a constant supply of Jewish antibiotics (chicken soup filled with freshly slaughtered free range chicken and chemical free winter garden vege) coming across the road from my fabulous neighbour, Hristina.

I asked Jillian to bring me some jelly crystals, because you can’t get them here yet. My reason for asking was to do with cooking, but as I’m not doing any, I’ve rediscovered the joy of eating jelly.  Quite possibly helping to keep me alive  🙂

Having Jillian here has been so healing for me.  I know there was a huge spike in my improvement when she first arrived, but I think a lot of that was pure excitement and I seem to have settled back into a circle of good days and bad. She’s gone from being my strength, my support and my nurse and added dog walker and carer, turkey buddy, garage sorter and clean up miracle lady and even hairdresser.  I got it into my head to put a colour through my hair the other day.  Hey, I look like shit …I’m all scrawny and my hair is just a mess, and I thought a bit of colour might help.  Got my ambitions mixed up with my capabilities, didn’t I ? Got the colour in, got the hair tied up and then went to pieces.  I’m finding if I stand too long, I become really nauseous and very weak.  So there I am in the bathroom, too weak to call out, hardly able to stand and wondering if lying on the bathroom floor would be good or bad for my struggling health.  Thank god Jillian got a little concerned about the silence and came and retrieved me.  She helped me to the sofa so I could lie down ( after covering the pillows with plastic…I’ve got dark auburn dye in my hair remember ) and there I remained until the sickness passed…far too long for the colour in my hair, let me tell you.  When I eventually had the strength to be led back to the bathroom, where Jillian then rinsed my hair out, I emerged a much darker haired woman…and I don’t think it helps the whole sick look.  Porcelain white skin against dark, dark hair…Goth gone wrong springs to mind.

Anyway, that kinda led to a few days back in bed.  I’ve been sleeping like the dead and Jillian insists I stay, as long as I feel better for it. And I confess to feeling better and better when  I do sleep my days and nights away.

And let’s not forget the fabulous food she is cooking for me.  OK, I can only manage a very small plate but she’s making me wonderful food full of wonderful flavours and all based on just what benefits my blood will get from it. So it’s not just about soup & jelly.  I’ve been treated to salmon & chicken poached in garlic oil with lots of lovely ‘blood’ veges…beetroot, broccoli, mushrooms, all served with rice or potatoes.  Mind you, I still get menu envy a lot because Jillian’s having even more lovely stuff that I can’t eat. I’d love a slice of toasted pannetoni or some Christmas cake, but they’re just not on the list at the moment.

I’m still losing weight but have decided there will be no new clothes.  I actually bought a belt the other day, the first one I have ever owned, and I think I only got it because Jillian didn’t think tying my jeans up with string was a good look.

I think I am truly finding out the meaning of the words ‘fragile’ & ‘feeble’.  This is just so debilitating and I’m used to being strong and able. It’s very hard for me.  All my muscle has gone so I have nothing to ‘hold’ me up when I want to climb stairs or go for a little walk.  My legs shake and my heart goes into overdrive, and that’s when I do bugger all.  I look like a baby elephant who’s trying to survive a drought…muscles are gone, fat’s disappearing but the skin remains.  I have all the skin and nothing to put in it.  I can’t even look at myself anymore.  It was funny at first…not any more.

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of news, given that the scope of my world has been reduced to my bedroom and the lounge room.

I’m having an airing tomorrow as I head to Yambol for blood test #20.  Lets hope these result are good…I’ll keep you posted.

back to sleep for me……ciao for now

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Chestita Nova Godina to everyone…That’s ‘Happy New Year’ for the non Bulgarian speakers

I’m not dead !!!  and nor is Gina…and thanks to everyone for asking

Though at times I feel mostly dead, I think my recovery has been more than assisted by the arrival and presence of this woman

My sister ‘ Cyclone’ Jillian arrived just before Christmas and has been my nurse, my strength and my support…and has become Gina’s new best friend…forever !!  (BFF apparently)

I’ll be back with more detail later, but for now, I’ve been ordered back to bed  🙂

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year

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and so to Barcelona we went…on our way to spend time with Deb Westerberg in France.

Deb gave me the name of a guest house in Barcelona and a great suggestion it was.  Slap bang in the middle of the city, with a lovely view of the city streets from our balcony

and very close to Las Ramblas and Plaza de Catalunya. No matter how much of a tourist trap Las Ramblas can be, it’s always worth a wander through.  The sites, the smells the food and characters are all terrific to experience

and let’s not forget the drinks and sweets

Just makes you want to climb in and feast, doesn’t it …and this market is there every day of the week selling lovely fresh produce.

November 16th :  This has been waiting for two weeks to be finished and published. I have a  valid reason why it isn’t, which includes a stay in hospital and I will go into that very soon.

I sometimes think the gods are really testing me here  🙂


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What do you  reckon might be going on here ?

if you’re guessing ‘grape picking’, you’d be right, but then what are we up to here ?

What you’re seeing here are the first steps towards the very first ‘Chateau Southern Cross… that’s plonk from my very own grapes !!

I had a bumper crop of grapes this year and as I knew I was going to be busy and also away for a critical part of the harvest time, I gave a lot of them away to a fella called Michael who comes here for holidays and likes to make wine. I also asked Hristina if she would like the rest for rakia or wine for her and Volcho. Though she said yes, she clearly had another plan for them.

When Di and I arrived back from Plovdiv, we  were thinking rest and preparation for the next page of our holiday.  Hristina arrived here first thing one morning and informed me that it was time to pick the remaining grapes and that they would become wine…for me.

Di was upstairs waiting for me when I called her and told her to postpone any plans because I would be picking grapes. She was very excited and definitely up for being involved, so to work we went.

Hristina bought over the thing that you an see on top of the barrel and set it up in the garage.  We wrestled the bloody wasps for the sweet, sugary grapes and bucket by bucket Hristina put them through the mincer (no idea of the proper name).  We had a terrific time and Hristina really took a shine to Di, who was doing her best to talk Bulgarian to her.  When you do this, it doesn’t matter how bad your Bulgarian is, the villagers are really tickled that your at least try.  Di was actually doing very well indeed and Hristina  spent most of the working time helping her and chatting away to her…

I did explain to Hristina that we were going away and I wouldn’t be here when it was time to add the sugar. “Nyma problema’ she said, she would do it for me while I was away having a holiday, and she did and it’s now sitting in a plastic barrel downstairs festering away….or should I say maturing into a fine vintage  🙂

The first vintage is only about 20 litres and I do have to credit Hristina with most of the production, but it’s done and if I’m still here next year, I’ll certainly do it all again.

It was a great experience for me and for Di as well I think…If it’s drinkable and I go as far as to bottle it, I think I know the very photo for the label

After our rather unexpected busy day, we then threw a few things into a case and headed off the Sofia to catch a plane to Barcelona

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I know I was only away for four days and I had a great time in Turkey with Di, but I have to confess that when it was time to return home I felt just a little excited…I do love coming back here.  I had also left three people and Gina in charge and thought perhaps it was time to get back and relieve them of their duties.

Before I headed down to Turkey, a couple from Denmark ( Australia) came to stay.  Amanda and Di walk together in a walking group in Australia and so when Di was talking about coming to visit me, Amanda and her husband Stuart thought that Bulgaria sounded like somewhere worth visiting as well, so along they came.

They are terrific and it was a pleasure having them here.

Their start in BG wasn’t that great.  They came from Istanbul with a bus company called Metro, and even though the company says on their website that they come to Yambol, they don’t,  and have a very bad habit of dropping people off in the middle of bugger all…precisely what they did to Stu and Amanda.  I arranged to pick them up from Yambol but when Stu rang, they were clearly NOT in Yambol and had been dropped in a village called Zimnitsa, about 20 Ks from where they should have been. I headed out there and found two waifs looking slightly shell shocked standing in the middle of a place they probably had never thought they would visit. I bundled them into the car and so began a very enjoyable few days leading up to my departure to meet Di.

These two were here for some rest and recreation, a good holiday, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when, on their first morning with me Amanda asked if she could go and dig up the rest of my potatoes…” don’t be ridiculous’ I cried ‘you’re here for a holiday’.  But there was no stopping her, She insisted that she really wanted to spend time in the garden and who was I to refuse her.  She was down there for ages and, with some help from Stu, got another great patch of my spuds up, which was a terrific relief for me as I was already falling behind with everything that needed doing around the place.

The weather was incredibly hot and we had many a pleasant evening sitting in my fairy light garden enjoying a few cold bevies and some fabulous fresh food from my vegetable patch. And,of course, they won the heart of the resident tyrant (Gina, not me) and she managed to con many a walk out of them as well, especially Amanda.

I was taking them down the Sozopol for a day, so with Colin in tow, the three of us headed out for a lovely day.  The weather was still blistering hot and the place looked gorgeous. We had a beaut day of walking, looking, good food and sights like this

We were sitting in a great little restaurant overlooking the water on a stunningly beautiful day when this cruised past…fabulous.

When I was heading down the meet Di in Istanbul, Stuart and Amanda were moving off to tour through Bulgaria, intending to come back for a few days before Di & I headed off to France.  I was going to put Gina in the kennels for the days I was away…well, they liked it so much that they asked if they could stay in the house while I was gone and were perfectly happy to look after the old girl in my absence. I was very pleased.  It meant Gina wouldn’t be uprooted twice ( she was going to the kennels while I was in France) and I knew she’d be more settled and less neurotic at home with strangers than in kennels with strangers.  Don’t forget, in 2008 I put her in the kennels for 6 months and didn’t come back for two years…she gets very suspicious when I drive anywhere near the kennels these days.

Anyway, I did the Istanbul run and Di and I came back to Miladinovtsi to a very happy dog and equally happy house guests.  We had a couple of days before heading off to the other side of Europe. We took Stu and Amanda to Plovdiv, their starting point for an eight day walk through the Rhodope  mountains, and said our goodbyes there

Di & I headed back to Miladinovtsi to prepare for our departure to France.  We didn’t have a lot planned and figured a nice, easy restful time before embarking on a cross Europe journey would be good, but the best laid plans…

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